NYT Online Going Pay-Per-View
The NYT is joining the WSJ in making noise about putting a subscriber wall around all its content.
New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations. After a year of sometimes fraught debate inside the paper, the choice for some time has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. The Times seems to have settled on the metered system.
One personal friend of Sulzberger said a final decision could come within days, and a senior newsroom source agreed, adding that the plan could be announced in a matter of weeks. (Apple’s tablet computer is rumored to launch on January 27, and sources speculate that Sulzberger will strike a content partnership for the new device, which could dovetail with the paid strategy.) It will likely be months before the Times actually begins to charge for content, perhaps sometime this spring. Executive Editor Bill Keller declined to comment. Times spokesperson Diane McNulty said: “We’ll announce a decision when we believe that we have crafted the best possible business approach. No details till then.”
While I understand their dilemma and support their goal of making a profit with their news operation, I continue to believe closing their site to readers is a recipe for disaster. I’m an unusual reader, of course, but I’m in the same boat as Ann Althouse:
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 they need to make money, but I wish advertising was the way. Once they close themselves off — as they did once before with the failure known as TimesSelect — they sacrifice readers and lose appeal for advertisers.
With rare exception, I don’t even visit the NYT main page intentionally. They’re a brand name that I value and I prefer to cite them and a handful of other papers over others. But, at the end of the day, they’re simply not irreplaceable and I’d stop reading them if they were behind a pay wall.