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Credit: Dreamer, via Wikimedia Commons

Subscription models only work for platforms that "offer value beyond what you get for free", the founder of newly-launched online title The Information has said.

Launched four months ago, The Information reports on the latest news and analysis from the technology industry.

It publishes one or two stories a day behind a paywall, charging readers $39 a month or $399 a year to access content.

Jessica Lessin, founder and editor-in-chief of the platform, said she has noticed a direct reflection in the number of new subscribers to the platform relating to the kind of content it published.

"What we find is that when we write great stories, we get great subscribers," she said at today's Changing Media Summit. "But when we write less great stories, we get less subscribers."

"So that is exciting to me because it shows that the [subscription] model is growing. Word is getting out there and it's growing great."

Lessin noted that especially with subscription models, it was really important to "know your audience".

"This is a lesson we hear time and time again but I think bigger publishers have lost sight of that," she said. "Who are you writing for? If you're doing a story on Apple, is it written for the hedge fund trader or the consumer?"

Lessin added that in today's competitive market, the business model depended "first and foremost on what's in the writing".

Covering such a broad industry as technology, she said the editorial team had to "pick their battles" and were primarily focussed on covering areas where they had expertise.

She credited The Information's subscription model with enabling the team to grow ahead of where they thought they would be after just four months. The outlet now has eight core staff, including Lessin, five of which are reporters.

A founding premise of The Information, she added, was to be "indispensable", going the extra mile to offer more original and in-depth viewpoints.

"When everyone is writing the same story, and there are a hundred stories on the same topic, how do you make your 101st stand out?" she asked.

"You can either weigh in with a clever take on something, or you can pick up the phone and come up with information that no one else has. You have to have something fundamentally important or a really great insight that other reporters don't."

Another key thing for those considering a subscription model, said Lessin, is to "build a product people want".

"It's not enough to say 'I love to write, I have a blog and Google Adwords'," she said. "That's the wrong approach."

People should instead ask themselves if what they want to create already exists, and if not, is there a market for it, she said. And "would people pay for it?" she added. "Because that's what raises the quality of product."

Although she noted that the subscription model is not for everyone, Lessin said that it was the model she wanted for The Information "from the get go, because it was aligned with our journalism".

Noting that subscriptions to The Information were more expensive than the Wall Street Journal, where Lessin was previously senior technology reporter, she added that the pricing is justified by the value of the niche content provided on the new platform.

And the price of The Information is intended to "appeal to professionals who wanted to get value, not just to entrepreneurs who can expense it".

"We're finding it's a nice balance. It's certainly premium but we're not shutting out the people who are up and coming. For the people we're writing for, that's a price they're willing to try."

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