On Wednesday, The New York Times announced it already has a 2011 New Year’s resolution: charge frequent users of its Web site.
An article on NYT’s site said, “visitors to NYTimes.com 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 without extra charge.”
This is something that is being hotly debated in the newspaper industry as advertising and subscription revenues have declined, due in part to the proliferation of online avenues to access the news and sell goods and services.
NYT gets “more than 17 million readers a month in the United States, according to Nielsen Online,” and by all accounts it is probably the top Web site for online ad sales.
As the article pointed out, “Two specialized papers already charge readers: The Wall Street Journal, which makes certain articles accessible only to subscribers, and The Financial Times, which allows nonpaying readers to see up to 10 articles a month, a system close to what is planned by The Times.”
So, is this a good idea for NYT?
I’m led to believe no. It seems like they are punishing the faithful readers and endangering their online advertising revenues because their readership numbers are sure to change, which will affect the price that can be charged for ads.
Granted, the work by journalists that is put online takes money to do, so it isn’t too far out of bounds to reason that people should pay for that work; however, with the kind of online presence NYT has, I question if this is the right path for the organization, though it could very well be a good idea for others who aren’t in a similar position.
The biggest problem I see with charging for online content, though it is undoubtedly a piece, not the solution, to the equation of saving news organizations, is that people are too used to the Internet being a place for free information, whether that is right or wrong or not.
It is going to be hard to convince people that all of a sudden they now need to start paying for their online news, though the music industry has turned that tide quite well.
I know want to know what you think, though. Is this a good idea?
Please take a moment and take part in the poll below.
I think the answers will be very telling.