Netimperative.com extends begging bowl to readers

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Netimperative.com, the online news service for British dotcom types, is asking readers to pledge money for subscriptions. The inference is, from the press release it issued today is that the doors will close for good - at least to a daily service, unless it raises enough cash.

netimperative.com wants readers to pay £50 for membership (annual? life?) and it says it will convert pledges into cash only if it reaches critical mass. But what is critical mass?

The site has an online MembOmeter which calibrates to 1,400 pledges, and has so far reached around 150 or so promises.

With 1,400 paying subscribers, netimperative.com would have 70k a year membership income (assuming the company aims to charge annual fees) - but is that enough to fund the company's wage bill (when it went bust last year, following the withdrawal of support by lead investor Durlacher, the publication had 40 or so staff on its books - now it has 17, the FT says.).

So that means income from other sources. By turning itself into a paid-for-online-newsletter, the company risks killing banner advertising revenues. Newsletter subscribers are not accustomed to seeing advertising on something they've paid for. And only WSJ.com appears to have pulled off the trick of making people pay ($59 a year, less than the 'membership' fee proposed by netimperative.com) and flogging advertising too.

For good banner advertising revenues you need quantity and then you need quality. netimperative.com succeeds on the second score - it has 8,000 or so free-subscribers, but in a highly targeted demographic. But it fails miserably on the first count.

netimperative.com says it has some offline content ideas up its sleeve, which will, presumably, bring it into direct competition with New Media Age, the offline market leader, and pretty much unrivalled since the unceremonious departure of Industry Standard Europe last week.

Question is: are there enough loyal readers and is it different enough from the NMA for it to make the cut? It won't take long to find out. ®

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