Some people hate The New York Times and some people love The New York Times — but everybody wants to read The New York Times for free. That will largely end in 2011. You probably read that today on the Internet, and you probably read it for free.
The Times said it will let you read some articles per month for free, then make you pay for more. It’s what the Financial Times does. Who said it had to be original? If you subscribe to the print edition, just keep reading it. This isn’t really about you. This is a decision that will, for better or for worse, inform the public that if you want journalists to tell you stuff or entertain you, you need to pay them to do journalism all day long.
Lots of people have opinions on this and lots of people have done the research. Even more people style themselves Internet experts. The one thing they can’t help is sharing opinions on whether news sites should charge or whether they’re not just misguided for doing it — but whether they’re stupid or criminally wrong.
Everybody knows the sins that newspapers committed online. People will tell you: “They should have done it in 1995. They should do this, they should do that. If they do this, they have to give up that. They’re old media, they deserve to die. They’re doomed. They should sell. Too little too late. It won’t move the needle. They’re doing the wrong thing. I have data, do the math.”
Many people make good points. Still, what does the Times have to lose? NYTimes.com visitors? Pageviews? Ad revenue that isn’t really doing them many favors anyway? Publishers get so much conflicting information, and, to be honest, are a bit doddering and confused — so they stand still. Things fall apart from there.