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September 18, 2010 / Matt Gerardi

Whiskey Media Rolls Out Subscription Service

Online media company Whiskey Media launched a paid membership plan last week that will provide subscribers with premium content across all five of its websites.

Whiskey, founded by former CEO of CNET Networks Shelby Bonnie, has developed websites that combine multimedia editorial content, social networking and Wikipedia-style user created databases, with each of its five brands targeting a niche industry: Tested covers technology, Giant Bomb video games, Comic Vine comic books, Screened movies and TV and Anime Vice Japanese anime and manga.

The sites had previously offered all content for free, but with the launch of subscription plans have begun rolling out content exclusively for subscribers. This “freemium” model is a notable first among niche sites of this kind.

The subscriptions come in two flavors: a monthly five dollar rate or annual $50. The monthly subscription provides HD versions of all Whiskey video content, access to a weekly live show and some special privileges for community members. The annual rate includes all of that and removes ads from the sites.

The biggest feature being offered to subscribers is access to HTML-5 based mobile versions of each site. This means a user can log on to any Whiskey site from their smartphone and take advantage of all of its content within a design optimized for mobile phones.

I’m a strong believer in the Whiskey model. Each site is staffed by a knowledgeable editorial crew and the primary focus is on creating a more personal news consumption experience. This includes the production of weekly podcasts and daily video features ranging from product reviews and previews to interviews. Immediate access to the personalities of the people behind the writing creates a strong bond between the writers and the audience, something that keeps readers coming back.

The subscription model is similarly clever. They do not remove any content from free users but rather appeal to the sites’ most devoted fans and offer them options that increase usability. With the smartphone market growing rapidly, (not to mention the obvious correlation between smartphone users and Whiskey’s target audience)  including the mobile sites as a subscriber exclusive is a brilliant decision.

This is a model larger news organizations should look at. It is clearly designed to take advantage of the niche audience Whiskey’s suite of sites appeals to, but simple concepts like charging for enhanced usability, in particular mobile optimized versions of a product, might have universal appeal.

Whiskey has not yet revealed exact subscription numbers, however their staff has made it known that over 5000 users signed up for a paid membership within the first 24 hours of their availability.

More Links

Whiskey Subscription Information (note the first item on that list has since been struck down meaning all Whiskey content that was free is still free)

Whiskey Media’s about us page


One Comment

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  1. lew247 / Sep 21 2010 1:22 pm

    Well-written and informative. It’s interesting to see another media organization ‘evolve.’

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