Sunday, January 17, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

According to New York Magazine’s Daily Intel blog:  New York Times Ready to Charge Online Readers.

On the one hand, given the economic condition of newspapers these days, I can understand why the NYT would be interested in new revenue streams.  On the other, the attempt to put their editorial content behind a paywall was an utter failure.  Further, while it is true that publications like the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times are able to charge for content, they are specialty papers with specific audiences willing to pay (and, no doubt, paid for by employers in many cases).  If one can’t get the business news in the WSJ, one’s options to replace that news is limited.

However, if one can’t get the normal contents of the NYT then one can turn to WaPo, the LAT and any other number of places (like the online versions of the cable news channels or the wire service sites, or any number of other good papers).  In other words, while the NYT is a good paper, it is hardly indispensible to anyone and is easy to replace for free.

And as a blogger (and one whose news consumption is wholly an online experience), I concur wholly with Ann Althouse (as seconded by James Joyner):

For me, reading on line is tied to blogging. I’m not going to spend my time reading sites that I can’t blog, and I’m not going to blog and link to sites that you can’t read without paying. Currently, I link to the NYT a lot, perhaps several times a day. I don’t know how much of their traffic is sent their way from blogs, but it’s one more factor that will limit their readership. You’d think what a newspaper would want most is readers, both to influence and to sell to advertisers.

I know that I stopped reading NYT columnist on a regular basis when the TimesSelect process was implemented and never went back once the wall came down (although I will confess that over the years my consumption of columnists has declined in general).   Certainly in the current era of RSS readers and other aggregators, I mostly end up at the Times via links, and one has to wonder how many readers they will lose as a result of this move (should it come to pass).

In general the move is one that will, by definition, lead to far less readers of the NYT and it is difficult to see how that is a good thing in the long-run.

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4 Responses to “Paying to Read the New York Times?”

  1. Ratoe Says:

    I guess I’m old school. I simply can’t wake up in the morning without reading an actual newspaper. I’ve been subscribing to the NY Times and FT for years and I rarely go to their websites.

    I used to also subscribe to the WSJ. Ever since I let the subscription elapse around the time Murdoch bought it, I have never gone to their website. (My dropping the WSJ had nothing to do with Murdoch–it was just hard to justify THREE papers!)

    With the WSJ there were a couple of columns I read religiously (Eric Felten’s Saturday one on cocktails), but I’ve never even thought about trying to find them online!

    I wonder if the e-book reader phenomenon might help some papers in the long run. I could imagine a decent e-reader that gets sent wirelessly the paper each morning.

  2. Steven L. Taylor Says:

    I have become so thoroughly a laptop guy, that I do not miss an actual paper. The fact that the local paper is almost worthless hastened the move, no doubt.

  3. Leonard Says:

    You would think that the NYT would have learned its lesson from the last failure. The only way I can see it being reasonable and viable (especially a second time) is if paying for access also measurably reduces or eliminates the amount of advertising served with the NYT’s content. (You want me to pay for the privilege of being advertised at? No thanks.) Problem is, that’s probably not in the offing and when you take freely available technology into account, it wouldn’t be worth the cost anyway.

    As for “almost” worthless, I don’t hedge like that about the local purveyors of drivel. The Dayton Daily News used to be Cox News’ flagship paper, but they bailed on that years ago when they made the Atlanta Journal-Constitution their primary focus. Now the DDN is little more than an AP rag with poor columnists and a delusional editorial board which mistakenly believes it has some influence in this town. The local TV news is even worse: 3 competing channels of sentimental treacle, inconsequential fluff, GBH and ridiculous attempts to localize big news stories (so-and-so’s cousin’s half-brother was at the scene, so let’s go live with his next-door neighbor!), all vying to see which of them can insult your intelligence the most.

    When you can get the news (via RSS) directly from the same wire services the papers and TV do (AP, Reuters, UPI etc) and all you’re missing is the syndicated columnists and “Dear Abby,” why bother with the local yokels at all?

  4. B. Minich Says:

    As a techie, this news reached me in a different manner:

    “The NYT is coming up with subscription options, and mentioned an announcement for mobile content options in about a week. Translation: APPLE TABLET STUFF!!!”

    Basically, the idea is that the Tablet from Steve’s Own Hand is going to load media in a way that makes sense on mobile devices.

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