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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

media matters « Previous | |Next »
March 20, 2011

We know that the future of newspapers is one that has much less money attached to it and far fewer people working for them. The problem the New York Times and all other newspapers and magazines are facing is that, as readers increasingly move online, news organizations aren’t getting enough money from them to maintain newsrooms of any decent size. Print subscribers and advertisers heavily subsidize the free news that online readers take for granted.

It's an uncertain future in which newspapers will have to innovate to reconnect with their readers. In response journalists have lashed out at Google and bloggers, rather than addressing issues such as massive debt-load and a failure to adapt to the times. If simple traffic and advertising isn’t doing the trick to increase cash flow, then that money has to come from somewhere else. One option is a metered approach, as opposed to a all-or-nothing subscription method, which isn't a viable one for a general news site.

The New York Times has announced that it is launching digital subscriptions for its online site. If you want to read more than 20 articles a month, you’ll need to dig in your pockets for $15 every four weeks (this will cover and the Smartphone App). The changes take effect soon—first in Canada, and from 28th March, in the US and the rest of the world.

Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

There is a need for a viable stream of revenue from digital that is not tied to advertising, and, amongst journalists, that their work is good enough for readers to pay for it. The success of subscription-based models at the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times indicate how this might be done; however, unlike the New York Times, these are specialist publications, with monopolies in their own markets.

Unlike the partisan newspapers of News Ltd, which continually throw mud at public broadcasters (ABC + BBC) minimise the misbehaviour by News Ltd media (eg., the phone hacking done by the News of the World), the New York Times, for all its faults, is still a good newspaper.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:59 PM | | Comments (1)


The initial reaction to the detail of the paywall has been that the offer is too expensive. In The fine print of NYT's paywall in Business Spectator Stephen Bartholomeusz says:

There is significance to the choice of 20 clicks a month as the limit for free access to the NYT site. The group has said previously that about 85 per cent of its online audience looks at less than 20 articles a month, so the paywall is targeted at the 15 per cent that are heavy users of the site.

It will affect only a relatively small proportion of the NYT’s online audience – and therefore its impact on the audience size and its revenue potential will also be limited.

It's a toe in the water.