New York Times Will Start Charging For Content in 2011

I came across this article today on CNN Money about the NY Times charging for their content in 2011. It doesn’t surprise me that major news publications are going this route, because their print subscriptions are suffering largely, and they don’t know what to do. As a fairly serious blogger for over 4 years, my beef with the NY Times is not that they are making a business move to generate an extra source of revenue. My beef is that that reason they need to start charging for content online is because they spent the last 5 years thinking this real-time information movement on the internet was just a fad. They laughed at bloggers, and now many print journalists now work for blogs like Politico and the Huffington Post. If they would have spent time learning how to create a sustainable business model on the Internet from the beginning, they would have enough advertisement agreements on their website to subsidize the money they’re losing in reduced print subscriptions. Ok, I’m stepping off the soap box now. So, what does this mean for us?

Are You Willing To Pay For Information Online?

I don’t pay a dime for content on the internet. There is way too much free information from highly credible sources online now, and there’s no need for it. And damn, I pay $50 a month for high-speed internet. Now you’re telling me that I’m going to pay for information a la carte on the Internet? It’s really not that out of the ordinary for people to pay for information and content. We pay for digital books, MP3’s, pictures, videos, and educational materials, but very few of us pay for monthly subscriptions online. So, I agree with the CNN article about how the NY Times should approach this:

“If you are in the money business, you need breaking news to make decisions that are going to make or lose you money,” he said. “So paying for an online subscription to the Wall Street Journal is peanuts.”

But because of the New York Time’s broad coverage, the company will have to find a way to target its most loyal readers who are willing to pay for its content.

The Times will need to pick and choose carefully what they offer as premium content and free content. They should pick certain information niches to charge for like their famous editorial section, their theater and arts section, reviews, and other content that’s exclusive to their publication. If someone goes to the Times mostly for sports and world news and their meter runs out of free articles, they will just move on to the next publication that doesn’t charge them money.

This is a Slippery Slope

Darren Rowse from recently started a premium section, and I am sure he gets quite a few people to subscribe to it, but it’s not nearly as many readers that he has for his free stuff. Once the big boys start charging for content, it’s going to cause all of the smaller online publications to test the water on charging for content, and the Internet will suck. You’ll have website after website fail at doing the premium content thing right, and we’ll have to suffer through it and wait for them to offer it for free again, because we’re not interested.

What are you willing to pay for online? Would you pay for exclusive content from the NY Times, CNN, or Fox News? What about Politico, Tech Crunch, or Gizmodo? I want to know your opinion on this subject.

  • Karmella

    I happily pay the $150 or so for a year of online WSJ access, and I don’t think twice about it. But I almost choke with laughter at the thought of paying anything for the NYT or any other content provider that offers information that really is fungible.

    I already have too much Internet content I feel like I should read – I am kind of happy NYT is removing themselves from the list!!

    If they gave me a reason to think they had something I couldn’t get elsewhere, I would reconsider, but I don’t think they can.

  • Andrea

    One thing that people often don’t know is that public libraries often have online access to newspaper and magazine content that is *free* to their patrons, it’s just a matter of knowing that it’s there and how to access it. Libraries pay a lot of money in subscription fees for the databases that provide the content, either through tax dollars, or grants and other funding.

    Subscriptions do vary: I know that I can read the Boston Globe, full-text, right up through today’s issues through the statewide subscription to ProQuest. I can also read the NYT, full-text, through yesterday’s edition, which isn’t as cool, but at least I know I don’t need to pay their little online archive fee per-article. But there are tons of magazines, newspapers, and other publications you can access, just ask your local librarian, or check your state’s library commission web site.

    Not to mention that you can usually access it from home in your jammies drinking your coffee or tea in your bunny slippers… you don’t even need to leave home!

  • Mac

    There’s too much quality news that is available free of charge to even think about spending money for a subscription to just one source. It’s interesting that 2010 just began, and they’re waiting until 2011 to institute this change. And when they do make the switch, I don’t expect it to last. I’d fully expect their revenues to sink as there won’t be enough subscribers to make it worthwhile. And those that subscribe will blog/tweet/copy the news and make it available to the rest of the crowd anyway.

  • Mike

    I won’t pay for online news. They need to figure out how to monetize free news. Maybe they will realize charging doesn’t work, then go to a more ad based system.

  • Anissa

    I understand why they do it; I mean you need to pay to read the paper one, but I don’t really approve. I mean it’s one thing to make people pay for archives but for the current articles they should stay free. Maybe if you want to see charts and galleries and that sort of content you should need a subscription or pay. Thankfully in MN we have access to all sorts of subscription online content through the public library. Sadly most residents don’t know it.

  • Connie

    I won’t pay for content, unless it provides money on my bottom line. For example, I won’t pay for newspaper content because someone somewhere will summarize the article if not quote it outright for free. But I would pay for personalized information. If someone will take the time on my situation (whatever it is) I will pay them, if they are just churning out generalized informations (editorials), I can find a qualified opinion for free. My opinion is always free, pretty sound and widely given ;-)

  • KristyT

    I can certainly see where the Times is coming from – they’re not a volunteer organization, and they’re trying to find a way to stay in business. But I just don’t think it will work. I know that I personally am not interested in paying for news – except maybe up-to-the-minute traffic diagrams and weather alerts sent to my phone. That’s all the news that’s truly important to me, you know?

  • Sean

    Personally, I don’t see what’s so wrong with the NYT having a subscription service. Online advertising right now won’t pay what they can get out of print advertisers, so they need some other revenue stream as their readership shifts from dead tree to online. That said, I think they need to truly innovate and offer something compelling for the money. If it’s just regurgitated news from the AP or other news wires, screw it, you can get that for free. I hope that we start to see high quality content that people will want to pay for. They could always take the Salon approach and offer free articles in exchange for viewing an ad. Either way, I think 2010 is going to be interesting for news websites in general.

  • ctreit

    I am certainly willing to pay for content on the New York Times’ website. Heck, I was paying for a subscription to the actual newspaper. Why should I expect that the online version should be free?

  • Joel

    I almost feel bad for the NYT (although Comedy Central’s evisceration of the company makes them a little less sympathetic): They are losing money by the truckload, and they figure this is one way to staunch the tide.

    But let me ask this: Isn’t it possible that someone will subscribe to the content, then just cut-and-paste the articles onto his site and try to profit on the hits? Of course the NYT wouldn’t go for this, but can they really track everyone who might do this?

  • ConsciouslyFrugal

    I am so tired of infotainment masquerading as journalism that I’d be willing to pay almost any amount for exceptional investigative journalism. Hell, I’d pay out the nose to just get some basic facts instead of opinions represented as facts (hi, Faux News!). Sadly, I just don’t see that coming out of any publication much anymore, so no one is getting my cash at this point.

    I’m also frustated that crap pop sites like Gawker, etc., are making advertising dollars off of real journalists’ content (there are a handful left!) by “reporting” on reporting. It’d be great if there was anyway to make shitty fluff sites pay to reference the words of journalists who do actual work, but that’s really not feasible.

    Basically, it all depresses me. I haven’t stumbled upon these amazing bloggers I keep hearing about, so I find myself digging through a bunch of stinky poo just trying to get some basic information about what’s going on in the world. Oy.

  • Robert

    The Wall Street Journal already does this, so it’s not a shock to me.

  • Karmella

    I disagree re: Gawker et al – they provide some entertainment and don’t just “rip off” content. It’s like providing context. Daily Show isn’t “real” journalism but it has some value.

    And I don’t think most of their ad dollars come because site visitors are there to read the articles Gawker is riffing off of.

    I think Gawker writers do do actual work – you can call it a “shitty fluff site” if you must, but that’s your opinion and your value judgment.

    Just using Gawker as an example, and I am not as in love with them as my defense makes me sound, but I don’t get the hate.

    • ConsciouslyFrugal

      I get the entertainment value of Gawker, et al. I’m a bit horrified to see it compared to Stewart though (the love!). But you do make a valid point.

      The hate is there because I find most of their articles utterly vapid and the childish snarky crap gets tired after awhile. Although Jezebel (another Gawker site, yes?) has some gems at times. Even then, the comments are often more entertaining than the pieces themselves.

      ANYHOO, my overall bitching was about the lack of decent journalism out there. I love John Stewart for what he is–comedy. The fact that so many are turning to the show for actual news is what irks me. There’s just too much fluff and not enough info. Perhaps I’m biased because I live in Los Angeles and my nightly news is often about boob jobs, celebrities and car chases? I just find it irritating that with all these major news sources out there, I most often have to turn to “alternative” sources for actual information.

      • Karmella

        As soon as I wrote that I thought Stewart (also love) =/ Gawker !

        We agree, mostly – I like to browse the comments and snark at Gawker (more so the older incarnations, not so much the new) just for fun. My disagreement there is that they don’t really profit from “real” journalism, since I see that just as a springboard for what it is they do.

        I am torn – I want good, serious journalism to exist. I believe it needs to, and that society desperately needs it to. But I am guilty of not searching it out or supporting it the way it should be supported, and that makes me pretty hypocritical.

        • Mac

          Yes, Jon Stewart is awesome. Love that show. And I do agree that people are starting to to turn to alternative news sources such as the Daily Show for actual news, which is kind of sad, but I sometimes find myself falling into this category as well. If you can eliminate the fluff, you can find some good hard news in this show…and sometimes much more so than some of the main stream media. Yeah, not a fan of Fox News.

          I do support the local news, but probably get the rest from random sources on the ‘net.

  • Audra

    I wouldn’t pay a red cent for anything from the New York Times. Considering I already pay ridiculous satellite and internet bills, why would I want to pay for content I was already getting for free? If the day came that say, Fox News, had content only accessible through a fee…I might consider it. That, I believe, is the key…finding what people are already paying for, and then offering them a different/better way to purchase it. Can I get a song-download amen? I personally subscribe to Rhapsody each month. It’s cheaper for me to subscribe and log in to listen to my playlists, rather than purchase every single song I want to hear that day. Granted, I don’t get to actually own that song unless I buy it, but for me…that service was exactly what I needed. I’m in the design business. I’ve watched the progression from books, to internet, to Kindle. I’ve watched music design go from album covers, to tapes, to cds and now to online. Bottom line, nobody is going to pay for anything they can get for free and technological advances require that companies keep up the pace.

  • Lauren

    I understand the NYT’s position but I don’t think their current plan for charging will work. Even such “exclusive” content such as theatre information could be found elsewhere. They’ve probably put this out there has a test balloon to see the public’s reaction and what people say they will and will not pay for.

    That said, I wouldn’t pay for their premium content.

  • Anne G

    There is so much news available for free on the net, I can’t imagine this will work. A magazine like Consumer’s Reports can charge for content and get subscribers because they have extensive test results that you can’t get anywhere else. I don’t think the Times offers much that is unique, and I doubt they will get many subscribers.

  • 1Tennesse

    HOw Ridiculous anyone that blogs…and knows half about what there doing wouldn’t pay a penny…I’m. Boycotting NYT…Anything to make a Buck.. Whatev….

  • Elizabeth I

    I think this will play out a bit like Napster/itunes. People are willing to pay as long it is priced right.

  • David/yourfinances101

    Just another sign that print newspapers are dying a slow and painful death. I hate it as much as the next guy because reading a newspaper daily is what helped me develop my reading and learning skills as a child, but its the truth.

    They did not react in time.

  • thriftygal

    They need to provide an exceptional and unique service if they expect people to pay for their content. An example is paying for cable tv over the free content you get from the air waves.

    Personally I don’t see how this will work for NYT.

  • Lora W.

    Money’s tight and to be honest if there is not coupons in the paper I don’t buy it. I have had to cut out Cable (I watch what news shows I need on net, antenna or at my parents). Subscriptions must be related to me and my business: its the only way to survive in this economy.

    I agree with the other posts that NYT must find way to target their loyal readers for an online charge: Questoin is where what/how will they do? Taking into account they will not start charging until 2011 then they are more than likely reading Free Blogs to find out what the public is thinking before making any decision: which they are taking advantage of the system also.

  • gina

    I know that we will not be paying to view the NYT online anymore. I agree, there is so much info online that is free–why pay?

  • jeccica simpson
  • DG

    That really annoys me as well. Apparently, blogging is a joke compared to print publications yet online content is where a majority of people gets its news! I am not paying to read new york time blogs. I’ll read other blogs. There’s not a lack of them for sure!

  • Mami2jcn

    All along The NY Times has been charging for archived content (any article that’s a week or more old, I believe). This move doesn’t surprise me. I agree that it’s unsavory and there are plenty of free sources out there.

  • Mrs. Micah

    Maybe I see things differently because I work at a library. Information isn’t actually free. Libraries spend thousands and thousands of dollars on database subscriptions and the like. In the same way, we pay hundreds of dollars for a single law book because, unlike a novel, it has to be edited by people who are specialists in the area and know what they’re talking about.

    Monetization will only get you part of the way and if people are willing to pay for your product, then I don’t think you’re honor-bound to give it away any more than I am to fix people’s websites for free. Writing a good article takes hours and if you can find people to pay for it, go for it. We’ll see if it works out for the NYT.

    Your argument about paying for internet is facetious. The NYT doesn’t see any of that money. Sure, it’s a reason why you don’t want to pay more, but it’s not like you’re already paying them anything.

    That said, if your taxes are already paying for something like this, it’s worth using it through your library. :)

  • SC

    i don’t think i would pay for the NYT online. i’m curious to see how the paid NYT online will do.

  • Crystal Hamilton

    My husband works for a newspaper and I understand them wanting to do this (and needing to), but it won’t work. If they charge for content, people will just go elsewhere. Every single newspaper and online publication would have to all do it at the same time, and that won’t happen.

  • JuliaA

    i can understand what they’re doing with this, but i can’t see paying for content, though i love the nyt. i may end up reading a lot more headlines and not clicking thru to articles nearly as often as i do now.

  • Kim

    I agree that I would never even consider paying money to read the NY Times. However, I can also see where they are coming from, though I don’t think this will be overly successful for them.

  • Sean

    With so many comments with the basic sentiment of “why would I pay for it when I can get it for free” I have to wonder if people are really considering all that goes into real journalism. Yes, I agree that there is a fair amount of news you can get for free or cheaply syndicated from AP and Routers, but what about the big expose deep journalism pieces that the NYT and other big institutions write. I haven’t seen anything like that from HuffPo or anyone else that is online/advertising supported.

    I do think the landscape is going to change, but I think what will emerge will likely be that the big pieces are behind pay walls and more analogous to a magazine subscription than a newspaper. I imagine a lot of news will become more “free.” Sadly this probably will mean the end for a lot of large institutions as we know them.

  • Gerald Shea

    I see s lot of replys from conservatives that obviously don’t like the NYTimes. I think the question is, would the people who read the NY Times regularly pay to do it?

    I use the NY Times as my home page. When they charged a few years ago for access to their top op ed articles, I subscribed and enjoyed it.

    Would I subscribe again? Probably…..depending.

    I think the NY Times is the top newspaper in the country with the top writers I can undersand why the Fox News fans would thinK otherwise but I’m certain they don’t visit to the web site now, even though it’s free.

    In my heart, I always thought free access to newspaper would not last. It’s sad but, hey, everyone has to make a buck. Even the Fox News folks would agree with that.