Notice anything different about Scuba Diving magazine’s website? Even before the most recent round of news stories reporting that consumers are willing to pay for their online news, Scuba Diving magazine had already made the switch to pay to play. Remember their old site? It was a pleasing and professionally designed web site filled with easy access to all current and past articles found in the printed version. All gone! The new Scuba Diving mag website is more along the line of an amateur, templated blog. But the downgrading of the website is only a side bar in this story. Site visitors no longer have access to the full articles found in the printed version. The site now contains a lot of short blog entries, but when you click on a story link you are likely to find a tid bit of it and/or get a redirected to the “buy a subscription page.”
The subscription options include only either an online version or the slightly less expensive paid version, but not both. This seems like an odd break from the more common practice of journals offering a print price that includes access to the online archives.
The ads are still free which is why you can still get free access to the “60 Second Scuba lab” videos. This should be a hint if you thought these Scubalab videos were unbiased reviews of products. Vendors tell us that they pay around $5000 to have their products featured here. In fact, we have questioned dozens of staff from various dive journals on the impact of advertising on the bias of articles. All that worked for magazines that depended on advertising freely admitted the harsh reality that they must slant stories and reviews to “promote the positive” aspects of their advertisers products and travel locations.
The new Scuba Diving magazine model is a new hybrid of the current online publishing models. In the past you were more likely to find, a clear split between advertising supported and freely available online (and often free in print – e.g. Dive News Network ) and pay to read, both in print and online, like the advertising free and marvelously unbiased Undercurrent.
In a few weeks the New York Times is flipping the switch and will be charging readers a fee after they read a set number of articles. It will be interesting to watch, how this new model plays out among divers and if other scuba journals follow their lead.