Movers and SHAKERS
Seeking Alpha Subscribers are Seeking Answers About Their New Paywall Policy
It’s been one month since Seeking Alpha suddenly began charging users to see more than a “certain number” of articles each month. Seeking Alpha’s abrupt policy change at the turn of the year was a surprise to some of the long-time readers of their crowd-sourced articles and discussion boards.
In a post that was made available to their 15.2 million readers on December 31st, Seeking Alpha told their free subscribers about a dramatic change that would take effect four days later. The notification informed that as of January 4th, all non-paid users would have “limited access to in-depth news and analysis.” There’s some confusion over how “limited” to some long-time readers (how many free articles wasn’t defined). More than a month later the announcement has received just 12 likes, and hundreds of insults, humorous jabs, and negative comments. Comments for the original post have been turned off, but commenting sprung up across other forums and is one of the most discussed topics on the investment website.
Seeking Alpha Note to Subscribers, Full Text Here
Freemium to Paywall
Unlike mainstream news and market research providers such as Barron's and The Wall Street Journal, the insight gained by Seeking Alpha visitors is provided by contributors that are primarily investors and buy-side industry professionals. This is an important differentiator over mainstream investment news which is largely funded by sell-side advertisers. This is thought to skew their reporting.
Seeking Alpha had been based on a freemium model. The site and most articles were free to all who wanted access. A paid subscription “Pro” level of service was added in 2018. This level allowed access to a full library of content on each ticker including a small selection of articles by their most popular contributors. These articles were only available free for a few days after published, then behind the Pro paywall. Today, what was once available to all at no cost, is $29.99 per month. Seeking Alpha still has a very stripped down bare bones “Basic” level. And their Pro level service now boasts VIP service and no ads for $199.99 per year.
Well researched ideas that investors can use, especially if they are insights a little ahead of the mainstream can be invaluable. It is up to each investor to determine their needs, their trust level, and to what extent they will find enough ideas over time to make paying for any provider worthwhile. The jump from $0.00 to $29.99 is still tough to swallow. For many readers the subscription may be worth every penny, for most of the 15-17 million unique visitors each month, they will likely find other providers of insight for their needs. Visitors to Channelchek spiked in January and still continue the well-above-average pace. As a free equity research platform, it may have been one of the beneficiaries.
It’s hard to calculate the ROI of an investment tool or information provider. But the costs are clear and measurable. By comparison, the Wall Street Journal charges $19.49 per month, more than 10 dollars less. Barron's, without any discounts, will cost readers about the same as Seeking Alpha’s $30. Neither of these well-respected sources has monitoring tools and available data similar to Seeking Alpha. The average visitor spends 6 minutes on the crowd-sourced articles, which is higher than Barron's, The Wall Street Journal, or The Economist.
If the goal of Seeking-Alpha is to seek additional revenue, this change may very well accomplish that for them. With 15-17 million visitors, they can retain a small fraction paying for the same service and become more profitable. If the goal is to serve their long-time loyal visitors and advertisers, the change in their business model will make this more difficult.
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