Posted January 18, 2010 7:58 am by with 3 comments

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New York magazine is reporting that the New York Times could be announcing its own move to a paid subscription model as early as this week. If this is the case, we may see more of the dominoes fall in this tenuous conversation. It seems that whenever anyone discusses even the threat of paid content online, a hush comes over the room and people start to whisper like they do when your creepy uncle shows up at the family reunion. Well, whether this is the time or not, this could be the year where content makes a break from the free world to either save itself or crash and burn in spectacular fashion for all to watch.

New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations. After a year of sometimes fraught debate inside the paper, the choice for some time has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. The Times seems to have settled on the metered system.

There are a wide variety of thoughts on the actual time that the announcement and then the service would happen so suffice it to say, it could be this week and it could be in a few months. The point is that there is pretty good chance that this will happen. When it does there will be plenty of interested parties looking on to help them determine what might be next. Apparently this has not been an easy discussion for the Times and they have looked at several options.

The Times has considered three types of pay strategies. One option was a more traditional pay wall along the lines of The Wall Street Journal, in which some parts of the site are free and some subscription-only. For example, editors and business-side executives discussed a premium version of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s DealBook section. Another option was the metered system. The third choice, an NPR-style membership model, was abandoned last fall, two sources explained. The thinking was that it would be too expensive and cumbersome to maintain because subscribers would have to receive privileges (think WNYC tote bags and travel mugs, access to Times events and seminars).

Now, the article in New York does examine how difficult this process is for the Times because in reality, they are trying to assess what their worth is to the English speaking world from a journalistic and reporting standpoint. Some feel that they could be the last one standing as others go away as a result of online media. If that were the case, the NY Times could garner plenty of ad revenue if they could hold on in the near term. Others are just watching the paper bleed money and feel that there may never be enough ad revenue in the new media world to support the level of reporting etc that they are used to promoting.

I am not sure where I am on this one. I would like to see news outlets like the New York Times survive. We need to pay people to cover stories and do the necessary digging to hopefully get somewhere near the truth. The trouble comes in whether the truth is ever the issue or not. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if a publication is on the left or the right of the political spectrum because the real concern is the bias that exists in many of these big publications. Everything that is reported is spun and often those who get to the position of being a Times reporter use that position as a power base. As a result reporting is out the window. It’s more like opinion and agenda with a few facts thrown in here and there. Sounds a lot like bloggers actually!

Anyway, here’s the easy question for our readers. Would you pay to get the New York Times content online? Yes or no. Oh and since we are a blog please let us hear your opinions as well.

  • Blues

    To be very honest I do not understand why they do not charge ISPs for access to the site as you would for a TV channel. Seems to make more sense that way and it would provide the “feeling” of free but everyone would still be making money.

  • Social Media Suicide 101.

    Make your content difficult to access.
    Treat your subscribers as cows.
    Spam them with even more ads after they paid to get in to see your content.!
    Have an attitude of entitlement

    Frankly if the New York Times wants to go down in flames, more power to them.
    If you want to get really nit picky, ISP’s could start charging for sites they carry.
    Software makers should charge per use of the browser that displays the content.
    Lets keep going, until we kill the internet with legal and red tape…so we can get back to chopping down trees.

    I will bet the people who consider forking over money will be in the 40+ category.
    the ones who go elsewhere will be under 40, hmmmm… kind of like the Jay Leno / Conan Obrien split. (Conan’s splitting)

    I see this as a generational thing, in 20 years the old people who don’t get it, will retire or die at there desks or be forced out. You can whine all you want about not being paid for content, frankly the digital camera has destroyed the professional photographer, you don’t see them up in arms. They had to find new models. Remember Typesetters? (Gone)

    Hurry up and expire at your desk.
    We’ll read about you in the Darwin Awards.


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