MediaFile

New York Times *still* thinks about charging

February 4, 2009

Editors think it’s the kiss of death to include words like “still” in headlines and “continued” in first paragraphs. It’s like admitting to readers that you didn’t have anything new to report. So why do I say that The New York Times is still thinking about making people pay to get news on its website? Because Times Executive Editor Bill Keller told readers on Tuesday that the Times is still thinking about doing this — and that made for a lot of news.

Here are the headlines:

  • Times executive editor hints at online access fees. (The Associated Press)
  • New York Times Considers Charging for Its Web Site (Bloomberg)
  • Bill Keller Examines the NYT Business Model (Portfolio.com)
  • Should the New York Times Charge for its Website? (Gawker)

Of the four, I like Portfolio’s best. Felix Salmon hits on a key point, the very one that I was thinking after reading these headlines Tuesday night: This is not news. Salmon writes:

Bill Keller’s musings about online subscriptions are causing something of a storm in the blogosphere, and even making the MSM. But I’d highly recommend you read the long version of Keller’s comments, rather than the soundbite version. Keller spends 2,164 words on what he calls “navel-gazing”, and the overall impression is twofold. Firstly Keller does not think that he has any answers to the questions posed by falling circulations and ad revenue. [Emphasis ours -Ed.] He’s thinking about all the options, in quite a sophisticated way — as he should be.

Here’s the soundbite part of what Keller said:

As most of you know, a few years ago The Times introduced a subscription service called Times Select. We put our columnists and our archives behind a wall and charged admission to anyone who was not a print subscriber. Times Select generated something like $10 million a year, which was real money, but in the end the company calculated that we’d be better off taking down the wall and letting the flood of additional visitors to the Web site attract advertising dollars. The lesson of that experiment, however, was not that readers won’t pay for content. A lot of people in the news business, myself included, don’t buy as a matter of theology that information “wants to be free.” Really good information, often extracted from reluctant sources, truth-tested, organized and explained – that stuff wants to be paid for. So far, it gets paid for mainly by advertisers, but a lively, deadly serious discussion continues within The Times about ways to get consumers to pay for what we make. [Emphasis ours. - Ed.]

In other words, this is something that the Times crew talks about all the time. Just like every other news outlet that’s trying to figure out how to make money online as their print newspaper business decline

Or, as New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said, in response to my question about whether the Times has changed its thinking about charging for access instead of offering it for free: “We’ve been having this discussion for years.”

Comments
2 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Are those public officers guarding the New York Times building entrance? Shouldn’t they hire private security if this is the case?
And I don’t care what they do. I won’t buy their papers or check out their website. Much better news agencies on the web free anyways.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive
 

Much of the blogosphere leeches off the NYT “Really good information, often extracted from reluctant sources, truth-tested, organized and explained.”

Pray they find a way to make money because this country needs the NYT.

Posted by hmmm | Report as abusive
 

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