I read parts of the New York Times every day. It is a habit I have grown fond of, because it gives a different perspective on things than the television news or the point of view of other papers or magazines.
I do several things, actually. First, I get a synopsis of the early news in each morning’s mail, which I peruse, and then move to my browser to check particular stories. I also get feeds from the various RSS pipelines from the news.
So you would think I might become somewhat alarmed when I heard that the Times is going to initiate a pay model. It certainly is not that the content is without value, but I am somewhat concerned that in their exuberance to turn the fortunes of the Times, they will assess a value much higher than I, or most normal people for that matter, would.
Apparently, I am not alone in that thought, as someone from DownloadSquad has been pondering the same things.
Haven’t we been through this before? The New York Times is apparently getting ready to charge readers for online access. According to sources close to Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. Two main models are being considered. One is the Wall Street Journal’s part-free, part-paywalled plan, where users pay for access to a lot of the paper’s content.
The other, more likely solution is a metered system, where readers will be able to read a fixed number of free articles before they have to subscribe. These models may be working – sort of – for other papers, but The New York Times is one of the papers of record in the US, and has a worldwide readership of 20 million to consider.
What makes Sulzberger think his paper’s readership can sustain the shift to a pay model when so many users won’t even read an article that requires a free account? I know this only anecdotal evidence, and maybe the board at the Times has studies that contradict it, but many people I know won’t even read a free NYT article if they have to log in to do it. BugMeNot.com is swimming with Times accounts you can use to avoid the registration process. If users are willing to go that far to avoid registration, I can’t imagine they’ll react any more positively to the pay model.
That’s not to say that the New York Times isn’t worth paying for. It’s an important resource full of crucial reporting, and I’m sure a great many people are willing to subscribe to the online edition. Unfortunately, the Times seems to have ruled out an NPR or public-TV-like donation model that could take advantage of this public goodwill. I’d like to see the paper give that a shot, considering how important its place as an international resource has become.
Meanwhile, the switch to pay could be preparation for a lucrative contract deal with Apple, based around the tablet device that’s due out later this month. We should find out everything in the next couple of weeks. Until we do, enjoy the still-free-for-now New York Times!
I would definitely get behind a PBS model, but would enough others? I wonder what other things could be tried. It would be sad if the Times could not continue as it is. Anything less, such as a reorganized, smaller version, would not be the draw that the paper is now.
I’m not much on ads that pop up and make the user watch or read, for a preset time, but I would put up with them. What I would not tolerate however, is a mix of having to pay and putting up with ads in the face. Either, but in no way both.