New York Times Online Will Not be Free for Much Longer
January 18, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Hurry up and get your free fill of the New York Times online version, because soon you will be charged for the privilege. With dwindling advertising dollars both in print and online, the staid “Gray Lady” is ready to take the plunge and join the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times in charging for its content. New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is said to have finally made the decision to charge online readers, after a year of internal contentious debate.
The last time the NY Times tried to bury online content behind a pay wall with its TimesSelect subscription service, it proved a colossal failure, as readership for opinion columnists plunged. This time around according to inside sources quoted by New York Magazine, Sulzberger has rejected a pay wall, like that currently used by the News Corp’s Wall Street Journal, in favor of the metered system successfully implemented by the UK The Financial Times. A metered system allows readers to read a certain number of articles per month, before being cut off and asked to subscribe.
This is a monumental decision for the newspaper with the motto, “All the news that’s fit to print.” The newspaper runs the risk of alienating online readers and suffering a decline in traffic and online advertising dollars. But at the same time, paid subscriptions would provide much-needed circulation revenue.
The paper has apparently come to the decision that in the long-term, there is not sufficient online advertising revenue to make the paper profitable.
According to the report in New York Magazine, the Times must successfully pull off a unique balancing act to make the online fee model work:
“The trick would be to build a source of real revenue through online subscriptions while still being able to sell significant online advertising. The appeal of the metered model is that it charges high-volume readers while allowing casual browsers to sample articles for free, thus preserving some of the Times’ online reach.”
The NY Times is expected to announce its new fee policy in the next few weeks, but the system would not be put in place until the spring. On an interesting note, sources indicate that Sulzberger is interested in partnering with Apple to employ the company’s new tablet computer, as part of its paid subscription service.
See the New York Magazine for more.