This month, Decanter.com quietly announced that it is launching a premium service, which will offer access to wine reviews and online versions of the print magazine articles, as well as priority booking for their tasting events.

There is still plenty of free content on the site - the perennially popular Jefford on Monday column, for example - but much of the material which was preciously free to access online is now available only to subscribers. 

It's tough to change a model from free to fee, and I'd guess that a large number of existing visitors won't bother paying the £75 per year (or £10 per month) subscription. But speaking as someone who makes a living from wine writing, it is important that Decanter Premium succeeds.

Whatever you think of the magazine, it is the last remaining dedicated mainstream consumer wine title in the UK, and it would be a portentous moment for the industry if it failed. Everyone knows how hard it has been for print media in the internet era, but Decanter managed to stay profitable (one of the few Time Inc brands to do so, I gather) via events such as the Fine Wine Encounter and the Decanter World Wine Awards.

But for the written content to succeed - which is, after all, the original purpose of the brand - they clearly need to charge for access. Perhaps this is part of a wider shift towards subscription-based content online, as media providers realise that advertising alone is financially unsustainable. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if future generations will look back at the first 20 years of the internet with amazement at how much was given away for free. Perhaps we are finally realising - both as consumers and professionals - that paying for quality content online is imperative.

Comment