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NY Times to charge for online content



After months of rumors and speculation, The New York Times yesterday announced plans to begin charging consumers for accessing its content online. So-called “pay walls” for online content have been the subject of much debate both inside and outside the newspaper industry, with commentators about evenly divided on whether they can be a partial solution for declining revenues.

The Times’ plan, which will come into effect in the U.S. on March 28, is intended to attract subscription revenue from the web site’s most frequent users, while not driving away the casual users that make up the vast majority of its 30 million monthly visitors. However, the plan has a number of exceptions and loopholes, which suggest that the Times’ management is less than committed to the subscription model, or at the very least, extremely nervous about its short-term impact.

The plan allows visitors to access up to 20 articles a month free of charge. Once they try to access a 21st article, they will be offered a number of payment options: they can pay $15 every four weeks ($195 annually) for access to the web site and a smartphone app; they can pay $20 every four weeks ($260 per year) for web access and an iPad app; or they can pay $35 every four weeks ($455 a year) for an all-access plan.

But if you don’t want to pay for that 21st article, there are a number of ways around it. First, all subscribers who take home delivery of the Times will continue to have free and unlimited access to the web site across all platforms (except on certain e-readers like the Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook).

Secondly, the Times will continue to allow free access to its web site from search engines or social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, for some search engines, including Google, there will be a five-article-per-day limit.

Lastly, the home page and all the main section front pages will continue to be free to browse, and the Top News section on smartphone and tablet apps will also be free.

Although some major newspapers have already introduced full or partial pay walls – most notably the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times of London – they have usually enjoyed a large financial or business readership, where individuals are far more likely to access content for work purposes.

While the Times experiment will be watched very closely, it hardly seems like it offers a long-term solution for the current woes of the newspaper industry. The Times estimates that 85% of its online readership will never reach the 20-article-a-month limit. While there are no estimates for the number of people arriving at the site via Google and other exempt links, it can be assumed that they will account for at least another 5 percent. That leaves just 10 percent of its existing web visitors to decide whether they want to opt for paid access or decide that they can get their online news elsewhere.

Will you pay to access the New York Times online? What online content would you pay for? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!



Comments:
Comment by Ellen Lebowitz, posted 3/18/2011, 2:49 PM:

The Times tried this before - less than a decade ago they charged on the digital version for specific stories. I don't remember the fee structure. It did not work so they dropped it. We'll see how this works out. Thank you, Ellen Lebowitz
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