CEA’s pivot: no more paywall

I can drop the phrase “subscription required” from my self-promotional vocabulary: The Consumer Electronics Association is closing its Tech Enthusiast site and moving my contributions from there to its existing CE.org site.

With that move, announced in a press release on the Arlington, Va., trade association’s site, you can now read my weekly post for free. (The latest looks into the inconsistent history of granting exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “anti-circumvention” rules; it should be up soon it’s up now on CEA’s Digital Dialogue blog.) They plan to keep the TE site up until Jan. 31; if your membership runs through Feb. 1, you should get a refund.

Attentive readers will recall that I only started writing for TE three months ago, so this might seem like a rapid pivot. But take a moment to think about the underlying goal here. It wasn’t to lock in an extra revenue stream (though nobody at CEA would have minded that); it was to get more people tuned into the organization’s interests, as I wrote in November 2010 when this program launched. That incentive may explain why CEA twice dropped the price of a TE membership, first from $49 to $29 and then down to $9 with a discount code.

Many news organizations have faced this same issue, but CEA’s membership dues and other existing revenue sources mean it doesn’t need to finance its Web operations from reader subscriptions or advertising revenue. So I’m not surprised to see the organization end the paywall experiment in favor of a free, consumer-focused portal featuring my work. (CEA’s release calls my insights “invaluable”; I don’t know about that, but I hope they’re worth what they pay me.)

Ending the need to log in to read my weekly ruminations on the state of the electronics industry opens other interesting possibilities that would have been less viable behind a paywall. I’ve already suggested to the folks at CEA that I start doing Web chats like those I used to host at the Post, and they seem interested. If you’ve got other suggestions, the comments are all yours.

(Edited 12/16, 10:16 p.m. Added a link to the DMCA post.)