Information Wants to Be FreeDip Its Beak | Bleader

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Information Wants to Be FreeDip Its Beak

Posted By on 01.20.10 at 11:40 AM

The New York Times announced Wednesday that it's shifting to a paid Internet model. No surprise there — the Times has been conspicuously thinking about this for months, and the only question was what model it would come up with.

"Starting in early 2011," the Times reports, "visitors to will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the newspaper’s print edition will receive full access to the site."

Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. says, “This is a bet, to a certain degree, on where we think the Web is going. This is not going to be something that is going to change the financial dynamics overnight.” The Times points out that two specialized papers, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, already charge for some online content, with the Financial Times's fee structure being very similar to the one the New York Times has decided on.

Is the Times right? Will the Web go the way the paper is betting on? Other papers would love to stop giving away their wares online but fear that charging any sort of pay-to-read fee would cost them Web traffic and threaten whatever online advertising they have. The Times reports that although its Web site has lots of "incidental visitors . . . a much smaller number of committed readers account for the bulk of the site visits and page views, and the essential question is how many of them will pay to continue that habit." The Times is betting those committed readers won't give it up. How many papers dare make the same bet?

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