Arthur Sulzberger, the chairman of the New York Times, says his paper’s recent decision to begin charging customers for its online content in early 2011 is “a bet, to a certain degree, on where the Web is going.” That’s a very different statement than the kind of blind pioneering the Times’ detractors are accusing it of. The devil, as usual, is in the details and the Times, though it today announced its intention to charge readers, has not released any details. With its deadline still a year away, it’s likely the Times doesn’t know the details yet itself.
The Times’ first and, thus far, last attempt at charging for its content made many articles, including its editorials, unavailable unless you were willing to pay. Some were, many weren’t (yours truly had a .edu email at the time and was wonderfully allowed full, free access). Come 2011, readers will be allowed to read X number of articles for free each month; to read article X+1, users will have to pay a monthly subscription fee.
Tech Crunch has crunched some numbers and thinks making bank off the payment plan is an uphill slog.
Why has it taken so much deliberation, so much time to commit to a payment scheme? And why will it not be put into place until 2011? The Times could appeal to online profit professionals like Amazon or Apple to get the ball rolling, so why doesn’t it? The Times’ own David Carr weighs in with his media blog saying “both Amazon and Apple see content as a kind of cheap, ubiquitous software to animate their business models. For the New York Times, the content is what it manufactures, at a very dear cost, and it’s best for the paper to control pricing and grow its database of consumers.”
Dan Kennedy at Media Nation wonders whether it will prove possible for smaller companies like the Boston Globe to follow suit when more varied alternatives are available.
I’ve noticed some cranky bloggers threaten the Times saying they will no longer link to its articles because they can’t be sure their readers will have access to the Times’ story. No, dear colleagues, I believe the flow of information works the other way ‘round.