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NY Times To Charge For Online Content 488

Posted by timothy
from the soon-we'll-be-nostalgic-for-free-registration dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "New York Magazine reports that the NY Times 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 debate inside the paper, the choice has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system 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. The decision to go paid is monumental for the Times, and culminates a yearlong debate that grew contentious, people close to the talks say. Hanging over the deliberations is the fact that the Times' last experience with pay walls, TimesSelect, was deeply unsatisfying and exposed a rift between Sulzberger and his roster of A-list columnists, particularly Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd, who grew frustrated at their dramatic fall-off in online readership. The argument for remaining free was based on the belief that nytimes.com is growing into an English-language global newspaper of record, with a vast audience — 20 million unique readers — that would prove lucrative as web advertising matured. But with the painful declines in advertising brought on by last year's financial crisis, the argument that online advertising might never grow big enough to sustain the paper's high-cost, ambitious journalism — gained more weight."
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NY Times To Charge For Online Content

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  • Oh well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrphoton (1349555) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:54PM (#30802124)
    Oh well, I just won't bother reading it then. I will read www.bbc.co.uk or www.telegraph.co.uk or theregister.co.uk or www.zeit.de or cnn.com or slashdot.org or www.dailymail.co.uk or and the list goes on.
    • Re:Oh well (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RobertM1968 (951074) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:58PM (#30802170) Homepage Journal

      Oh well, no big deal to me. By the time I found something on NYT that I was interested in reading, it was already in their paid section and no longer free to view.

      I wonder if the printer versions and such will also be "paid only" or if that little loophole will remain unfixed.

      • Re:Oh well (Score:4, Interesting)

        by infosinger (769408) on Monday January 18, 2010 @10:10AM (#30808090)

        The key to having a pay-walled site is that you have content that people cannot live with. The Wall Street Journal is one such site that has been profitable almost from day one. The NYT already tried to pay-wall the editorials once and they nearly had the writers quit because they had lost their audience. This could be a serious mistake for the NYT.

    • Re:Oh well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DangerFace (1315417) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:00PM (#30802180) Journal

      Oh well, I just won't bother reading it then. I will read www.bbc.co.uk or www.telegraph.co.uk or theregister.co.uk or www.zeit.de or cnn.com or slashdot.org or www.dailymail.co.uk or and the list goes on.

      This is the whole problem, of course - the more sites go paywalled, the more incentive there is for the others to stay free. Very few media sources I've found actually provide a significantly better service than many other sources, so it simply doesn't make sense for me as a consumer to pay for product I can get for free. Of course, there are those that say that my way of thinking will kill journalism / music / whatever, but I'll pay as soon as there is significant incentive to (ie. if they actually start dying off).

      • Re:Oh well (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:30PM (#30802456) Homepage
        The BBC's site may always remain free. Perhaps it's not really an issue these days but if they were to charge those outside of the UK then they would have to ensure that their GeoIP code works flawlessly and should they be able to charge licence fee holders purely because they went to France on holiday and want to check the news or because their mobile phone contract may have been purchased from a neighbouring country?

        I would imagine it's easier for the to keep it as is and if everyone else does a pay wall then that's just more business they'll get looking at their ads on the international versions.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dahamma (304068)

          if they were to charge those outside of the UK then they would have to ensure that their GeoIP code works flawlessly

          Not really... they just have to make sure it's reasonable. Maybe a few people will go to the effort to use some proxy server, but honestly it's really not worth that effort just to save such a small fee for such a commodity service...

      • Re:Oh well (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MBGMorden (803437) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:37PM (#30802522)

        It's not going to kill journalism - it's just going to thin it out. Advertising revenue is perfectly viable to support news sites out there - it's just not enough to support the current number of them. Every small town has a newspaper. Most larger ones have several. Every large-ish city typically has 4-5 television stations that also have their own news departments that do journalism.

        Go to Google's news aggragator. Every article they have has typically a few thousand versions of the same article at different sites. In reality, rather than thousands, we really only need a few dozen traditional news sites. I don't care how much they fight it out and die until we whittle down to an appropriate amount.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by QuantumG (50515) *

          It's not going to kill journalism - it's just going to thin it out.

          Pah. Journalism has killed journalism. Your typical "journalist" these days is a person who rewords a company's press release and sources a relevant picture.

          When was the last time you read an article that included a direct quote? Or asked someone a pertinent question? Or hell, even showed any knowledge of the subject material?

          For online publications you typically get more journalism from the comments section. "Hey, they said it was coming out this month in the last press release. Why the delay?" "XYZ

          • Re:Oh well (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:15PM (#30802808)

            When was the last time you read an article that included a direct quote? Or asked someone a pertinent question? Or hell, even showed any knowledge of the subject material?

            This morning. I suggest you read more.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dgatwood (11270)

            When was the last time you read an article that included a direct quote? Or asked someone a pertinent question? Or hell, even showed any knowledge of the subject material?

            The 1995 Presidential election season, give or take.

            The problem with journalism is that it is in a death spiral:

            • The papers can't afford to pay people well because they are losing money. Most smart people won't work for peanuts, so the best and brightest tend towards other fields. The result has been a gradual decline in the average qu
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by jbolden (176878)

              I don't agree I think journalism is far better than it was a decade ago. The blog community is providing excellent journalism and the cable news networks because they can focus on narrow segments of the market are increasing their quality to a level that I think is unmatched in television history.

              I don't think there is any doubt you need to go back to the 1950s to find the kind of investigative reporting that is now readily available, and honestly I don't think even the 1950s is comparable.

              I should say the

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by bfields (66644)

                The blog community is providing excellent journalism

                Could you give examples of members of the blog community which are providing excellent (original) journalism?

                • Re:Oh well (Score:5, Informative)

                  by moosesocks (264553) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:42AM (#30804912) Homepage

                  FiveThirtyEight [fivethirtyeight.com] provides fantastic political coverage, largely based upon statistical analyses. Although the site became a bit more editorialized after the 2008 election, Nate Silver acknowledges his biases up front, and almost always provides rock-solid data to back them up. He's also been responsible for bringing down a few fraudulent pollsters.

                  Speaking of political commentary, Andrew Sullivan [theatlantic.com] is certainly an interesting beast. His tangents about Sarah Palin are a bit silly, although his general political commentary tends to be spot-on.

                  Bad Astronomy [discovermagazine.com] is an all-around fantastic science blog.

                  Jason Kottke's blog [kottke.org] has very little original content, although his content selections are impeccable, reminding me of what Slashdot used to be. He's good at his job in the same way that NPR is good at what it does.

                  There are more excellent music blogs than I can even possibly begin to enumerate. These have helped launch a mini revolution in the music industry. Although mainstream pop is still the same recycled garbage as it always was, the alternative music community is thriving, and occasionally some of the good stuff does trickle up into the mainstream.

                  BLDGBLOG [blogspot.com] is a great read for armchair architects. Infrastructurist [infrastructurist.com] is a great read for armchair civil engineers.

                  FlowingData [flowingdata.com] is a fascinating read about data visualization.

                  Want to look good at work? Read this [putthison.com].

                  I'm sure I'm forgetting a few good ones. Google solicited the reading lists [google.com] of a few experts. Their recommendations are generally quite good.

          • Re:Oh well (Score:5, Insightful)

            by PCM2 (4486) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @08:46PM (#30803428) Homepage

            When was the last time you read an article that included a direct quote? Or asked someone a pertinent question? Or hell, even showed any knowledge of the subject material?

            What?

            Every news story on the front page of the New York Times includes direct quotes. They are reported by real reporters, working in the actual locations where news is taking place -- so I'd say their knowledge of the subject matter is considerable.

            Maybe the more pertinent question is, just what is it you have been reading that you've been calling "news"? You're pointing the finger at journalism, but maybe the real problem is closer to home than you think.

          • Re:Oh well (Score:4, Insightful)

            by mdwh2 (535323) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @09:04PM (#30803536) Journal

            Indeed - and it's especially sickening when it's not just company press releases, but Government press releases complete with all the spin that entails. Even the BBC happily do this - only when they're aware of significant controversy will they note any opposing viewpoint.

            And it's astonishing how many stories are copy and pasted around the news would, with trivial word changes to make it look original, and any misinformation in the original getting copied too.

            The research often amounts to a quick Google at best. And sometimes not even that, in that you get mistakes that could be found out if they'd at least done that. Even with usually good sites like the BBC, I've had to correct them on misinformation that a trivial Google search would correct.

            For online publications you typically get more journalism from the comments section.

            Agreed. Similarly, blogs seem to have a bad reputation here on Slashdot, but actually I'd say that they, along with commenters, tend to do a far better job of "reporting on something in the news, and giving further information" than the news "journalists" do.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bfields (66644)

            Journalism has killed journalism. Your typical "journalist" these days is a person who rewords a company's press release and sources a relevant picture.

            Try reading an actual repuable newspaper.

            When was the last time you read an article that included a direct quote?

            Err. Last time I went to www.nytimes.com? Really, go do it now and see if any of the top articles fit your description.

            For online publications you typically get more journalism from the comments section.

            If your idea of an online publication is s

          • Re:Oh well (Score:5, Insightful)

            by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @09:51PM (#30803856)
            • Hey mods (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:37AM (#30804882)

              This isn't Flamebait. We're talking about why media is failing these days, and this is absolutely relevant.

              Currently Fox news is #1 and this is what they're serving up for the public. It's unethical, misleading, and just plain flat-out wrong. And currently (if the numbers mean anything) this is what the public actually wants.

              This should scare the absolute crap out of you.

        • Re:Oh well (Score:4, Insightful)

          by CrazyJim1 (809850) * on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:11PM (#30802784) Journal
          You're on to something here. We may have needed one newspaper for every town when there was distribution limits. But now everyone has access to any newspaper, so there is a lot of redundant news out there. We don't need redundancy, so some should go extinct. The funny thing is that the ones who are free are less likely to go extinct because they'll have more readership and ad revenue.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jbolden (176878)

            You may be too young to remember this but papers you used to experiment with a national / local split. That's the reason for the A/B/C/D... stuff.

            A was produced at headquarters. B was produced at local offices. C/D/E were produced by specialized vendors / or run weekly. That's what's happening on a national scale. Let the local papers do the B section stuff. Tell me about the mayor, but actually do a good job covering the news.

        • Re:Oh well (Score:4, Insightful)

          by GrubLord (1662041) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:11PM (#30802788)

          I'm playing Devil's advocate here a little, but I suppose the trouble is what happens at the latter end of the curve.

          When we're down to 12 sources, what then? Supposing they need to drum up revenue to support doing the research once done by thousands of others, so as to give us accurate and factual news, they might consider charging for their content. Once they do, let's say the public decides they will go get the content for free by reading blogs or aggregators, which provide handy summaries of the news, alongside helpful (if biased) interpretations. What then?

          If the dying-off trend continues, all we're left with is partisan news which gets its funding from something other than doing good research and writing quality articles. Or we're reading the blog posts of the relatively-informed, and trusting them to abide by some kind of journalistic standard.

          That's not really a good thing, now, is it?

          Good journalism costs money.

        • Every small town has a newspaper. Most larger ones have several.

          This is simply not true.

          The Courier Express folded in 1982.

          The Buffalo News [owned by Warren Buffet] has been the only daily newspaper worth a damn in Western New York for twenty-eight years.

          The one newspaper city has become the norm. The major city without a daily newspaper is a very close at hand.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Every small town has a newspaper. Most larger ones have several.... In reality, rather than thousands, we really only need a few dozen traditional news sites. I don't care how much they fight it out and die until we whittle down to an appropriate amount.

          I wish my small town had one. We used to. Now we don't even rate a paragraph in the nearby big city's paper/news site - unless there's a big, ugly crime or really salacious scandal.

          Except for bad news, there's almost no local news. (Yes, there's still the events calendar, but listings in that are paid for.)

          We are getting too little news from far too few sources. Sadly, too few peope seem to care.

        • Re:Oh well (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fm6 (162816) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @10:07PM (#30803954) Homepage Journal

          Every large-ish city typically has 4-5 television stations that also have their own news departments that do journalism.

          Oh, please. TV news is the opposite of journalism.

          Every small town has a newspaper.

          So what? The problem isn't the quantity of newspapers, it's the quality.

          I live in San Jose, CA, which used to have a first rate paper. Lots of good content, a long history of award-winning winning investigative journalism, and serious coverage of the computer business. It was even profitable. Craigslist destroyed their classifieds business, which used to be their biggest profit center, but they were still doing pretty well.

          Then some "activist investors" decided it wasn't profitable enough. They forced the chain that owned it to sell out completely, and this paper ended up with a chain whose main talent seems to be cost-cutting. Now the page count is down (like 2/3) the quality of the writing is down, they no longer have access to their former chain's news bureaus, and circulation is down.

          Profits? What profits? For that you need subscribers. I used to subscribe and read it every day — now I rarely even bother to read it online.

          Really, the decline in advertising revenue is only part of the problem, as this sad story illustrates. There's also the fact that most newspapers (including all those small town papers) belong to mammoth media companies that are run by bean counters.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SecurityGuy (217807)

        And the converse: the more sites go paywalled, the safer it is for the next to go paywalled. It's not unlike the airline industry, which has been in revenue hell forever, being essentially nothing but price competition. Now, they're starting to charge for things they didn't used to. The public is up in arms! But they're all doing it. If you don't like it, you can drive.

        Are the airlines/newspapers evil for wanting to make money? Are the consumers evil for wanting something to cost as close to nothing a

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by NickFortune (613926)

          It's not unlike the airline industry, which has been in revenue hell forever, being essentially nothing but price competition. Now, they're starting to charge for things they didn't used to. The public is up in arms! But they're all doing it. If you don't like it, you can drive.

          Hmmm... but they would all need to do it. And there's nowhere near the level of consolidation in global news sources that there is in airlines. That's going to make it a lot harder to get a cartel together. On top of that, the last

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Nemyst (1383049)

            Granted, the blogging community are unlikely to finance a reporter who wants to infiltrate the Taliban, at least not any time soon.

            On the other hand, locals could report such information, often with far more insight since they actually live there.

    • Re:Oh well (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:24PM (#30802400)

      Please don't read dailymail.co.uk, it will only encourage them.

      *shudder*

    • The reason that the "Wall Street Journal" (WSJ) can succeed at charging for content is that the news reports and editorial opinions published by the WSJ are worth what you pay. The quality is outstanding, regardless of your political bent.

      The "New York Times" (NYT) also publishes content that is quite good (but is not as good as the content from the WSJ). The NYT will also succeed at charging for its content.

      The good things in life are not free. Reporters, columnists, and editors work hard day and ni

      • by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:37PM (#30802516)

        The NYT will also succeed at charging for its content.

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't they already try this and find it a dismal failure? I seem to remember I stopped reading any of their articles some years ago when they began some stupid restrictions on access.

      • by awyeah (70462) * on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:53PM (#30802612)

        Which is precisely why I (and apparently many others) pay for access to wsj.com. It's something like $8-12/month. That's well worth it to get access to the in-depth content they provide. Sure, I browse other news sites to scan headlines, and I would probably even be willing to pay for one or two more high-quality sites.

        What I will not pay for is a web site that does not provide me with original content, like sites that just aggregate the stuff of the wire, from the AP and Reuters.

        I also pay for Slashdot by the way - of course most of the content other than "Ask Slashdot" is rebroadcast from other websites - but the original content here is the lively (and IMO worthwhile) discussions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:55PM (#30802130)

    You were significantly less full of crap than other newspapers. We will miss you. :'-(

  • by omar.sahal (687649) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:58PM (#30802166) Homepage Journal
    I dont know the details but does any one else have a macabre interest in whats going to happen to the NY times.
  • by JackSpratts (660957) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:00PM (#30802190) Homepage
    i'll miss you. then again, i'll have a lot more free time.
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:00PM (#30802192)

    The New York Times can make an effective paywall because they hold the rights to columnists that share opinions that are nationally relevant. Local NY city news is covered by other papers, so they need exclusive content like the book reviews and bestseller lists.

    WSJ has business opinions. Nobody's going to pay for press releases restated, or the S&P 500 values... but reviews and opinions are still worth something.

    Can your local paper do that when your local TV station has a newsroom covering the same topics and also posting to the web for free? Nope. I don't really care what's going on in local high school sports, and that's about that's exclusive to my local paper.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:35PM (#30802506)

      > The New York Times can make an effective paywall because they hold the rights to columnists that share opinions that are nationally relevant.

      Of course they might not be all that relevant when people stop seeing their columns. Seriously, most online folk these days start at an agregator, whether that is a set of favored blogs or drudge, realclearpolitics, etc. Even if the people who create those key influencer sites subscribe to the NYT it is doubtful they will link to content behind a paywall if the past is any guide. Thus those who are contracted to write only for the NYT will, as they have already experienced in the past, see their influence decline. Good riddence to the lot of em as far as I'm concerned. Personally they end of the NYT will be a great day, this decision is a good step toward that happy event.

  • by TheGreatDonkey (779189) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:00PM (#30802194)
    Newspapers provide an important role in our society, particularly the larger papers such as this, the Boston Globe, Washington Post, etc. I never appreciated this more than when I lived in Arizona several years ago and realized, not to diminish the efforts of the good folks of AZ, but the quality of material was just not quite the same. With more and more newspapers just printing press releases and less original content, this becomes of great concern, and should for everyone who lives in the US, as papers often go out on their own to investigate political corruption, businesses acting unethically, etc. For the larger newspapers, this results in things such as Watergate, etc.

    I am not a big fan of paying for any online subscription, and to contradict myself I am not sure I would for this (I pay for a regular Boston Globe as my own attempt to try and keep the journalist machine going), but somehow, I still wish for them to be successful. Like their own struggles, I have no idea what the obvious answer is. If you value similar, I am not saying pay for the NYT, but I recommend finding something you are willing to put a few dollars into every month, even if its just your local Sunday paper.
    • I want to pay! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816)

      I know newspapers have to make a living, and I don't care if that comes out of my pocket. But they seem to be unable to come up with a payment model I can live with.

      I access a lot of news sites. No way I can pay a subscription to all them, or even to all my favorites. There has to be some way I can access all those different sources without breaking the bank. But newspapers can't seem to find it. Micropayments seem to be an obvious solution that never goes anywhere. (Yes, I know all the objections. I'd take

  • by cashman73 (855518) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:01PM (#30802196) Journal
    These days, I get all my news from either FARK [fark.com], Slashdot [slashdot.org], The Daily Show with Jon Stewart [thedailyshow.com], or The Colbert Report [colbertnation.com]. So, with the New York Times going to a pay site, it just means that none of the aforementioned sites that I keep an eye on will link to them anymore, so they'll eventually die off. The same thing happened with the Wall Street Journal, too -- they're not even on my radar anymore (Thanks, Rupert!)
    • by Stalyn (662) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:41PM (#30802540) Homepage Journal

      I'm going to pay. I read the NYTimes online everyday; a habit I started more than 10 years ago. The sites/shows you have listed are really just aggregators. Someone needs to be there, hit the pavement and get the story. This article [nytimes.com] is a great example of good reporting. I think it is worth value. If I have to pay a few cents for it... so be it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by westlake (615356)

      These days, I get all my news from either FARK, Slashdot, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, or The Colbert Report.

      No you don't.

      You are getting your news second, third or fourth hand.

      Filtered and packaged by whatever passes for an editor at these sites. The Reader's Digest version.

      The same thing happened with the Wall Street Journal, too -- they're not even on my radar anymore (Thanks, Rupert!)

      A celebration of ignorance does not inspire confidence.

      The WSJ is on your CEO's radar. His customers and clients. H

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:01PM (#30802198)

    I honestly don't know what they are doing to cut costs - but if they believe they are becoming a "global newspaper of record" - then maybe they ought to cut ties with New York. I'm sure doing business in NYC ain't cheap - do they really need an entire building in midtown Manhattan? I could see an office - something like what they presumably have in DC - as a place for reporters who are literally on the local beat to do officey type things. But I'm willing to bet that the business of running the paper could be done just as well from the booneys as in the middle of the big apple for a whole lot less. Sure. you'd lose some die-hard manhattanite employees, but nobody's irreplaceable - especially when the world is changing as fast as the publishing world is...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PCM2 (4486)

      I'm sure doing business in NYC ain't cheap - do they really need an entire building in midtown Manhattan?

      The New York Times management has made mistakes, but they aren't complete dummies. They don't actually have an entire building [guardian.co.uk] in midtown Manhattan anymore. But as far as being a "global newspaper of record," being based in what some have called the "capital city of the world" isn't a bad idea.

  • by Brietech (668850) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:03PM (#30802218)
    It obviously depends how much they try to charge, but I'll probably sign up for this. I really like reading the NYT (I actually live in NYC) - they provide an incredibly valuable service, which at the moment they basically give away. Realistically, though, I don't really buy the things they advertise. Half the time when I'm reading their site, it's on a computer with adblock installed so I don't even *see* the ads they have up. I was all about the "everything should be free" movement when I was a student, but now that I have a job, I don't mind compensating people for their work. Especially if the alternative is a world where the only 'news' comes from crappy bloggers that can't spell or do legitimate research.
    • by webdog314 (960286)
      It will be interesting to see how much they charge, and if they continue to include ads in the paid online version. Personally, I too might pay for a top notch news site if they removed the ads and charged me about the same as a yearly subscription to a print magazine.. say $20 annually. I know that doesn't sound like much on their end, but if the point is to get customers then they have to prove that there's something special about them compared to the dozens of free news sites that will be more than happy
  • Redux (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pubwvj (1045960) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:04PM (#30802228)

    Didn't they try that before.
    They built it and nobody came.
    I didn't bother reading it until it was free.
    Reading for a fee, I'll skip it again.
    There is more than enough free content and they aren't producing enough interesting content.

  • by azgard (461476) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:13PM (#30802298)

    So, if they now will be behind a paywall, while other media are free, how are they going to convince us about their objectivity? Or why should people pay them?

  • by lyinhart (1352173) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:15PM (#30802308)
    Chalk this up to the same bad management decisions that got Jayson Blair [wikipedia.org] bylines in the paper. On the Internet, people seem to be largely unwilling to pay for access to content. They figure they pay their ISP already, so they should have access to whatever they want. Whether this is a valid argument or not is up for debate. But the bottom line is, if content providers like the New York Times aren't willing to offer their access to their content for free (usually via an ad-supported model), there's always a dozen other content providers that are willing to provide free access to equivalent services.
  • First (Score:4, Funny)

    by JustOK (667959) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:27PM (#30802430) Journal

    First they came for the free news sites and I said nothing.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:35PM (#30802500) Homepage Journal

    Who would pay money to read Tom Freidman, the Mustache of Understanding?

    Tell you what, though, I get the Sunday NYT delivered to my door every week. I almost quit when they stopped having a separate Books section, but I knew I'd miss the puzzles too much.

    Anyway, how else would I get my subliminal liberal marching orders from Comrade Soros? I tried watching Fox News for a while but found myself gaining weight and wanting to do oxycontin. When I asked my wife to wear hairspray and librarian glasses and say "you betcha!" during sex, I knew I had to do something about it. Fortunately, there are liberal re-education camps called "libraries" where you can learn to break the Fox News habit.

    After I stopped watching Fox News I lost the weight, and my wife was willing to sleep with me again, but hell, I still want to do me some of that hillbilly heroin.

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:39PM (#30802530) Homepage

    The three posts I'm seeing so far all assume this will be the death knell of the Times. But the alternative if nothing changes is for the Times to piss all its money away until it closes its doors in bankruptcy. There has to be a happy medium. Somebody has to try to find it, and that's what the New York Times is doing now.

    mrphoton says he'll read www.bbc.co.uk instead. That's all well and good, but the BBC is supported by British taxes, while the New York Times is a private newspaper. There's a strong tradition of separation of media and government in the U.S. and it isn't likely to ever change. But some have proposed operating newspapers as nonprofit organizations, which may be a close compromise. In that arrangement, newspapers would essentially be relying on government to leave them alone, by not charging them taxes. Where their operating expenses would come from, however, remains an open question.

    To me, charging subscription fees for access to content makes a lot of sense. One of my favorite publications, The Economist, has always had a pay-wall around most of its content. And while advertising rates for magazines have been dropping across the board, subscriptions to The Economist have actually been climbing in the last few years. Why? Cynics say it's because people want to look intellectual by carrying around a copy of The Economist that they actually never read. People who subscribe to The Economist say they do so because of the marked differences between it and other, more traditional newspapers: The Economist prints zero celebrity gossip, and it never fiddles around with stories about car crashes or green gardening. It has a global focus. Its stories are well-researched, thorough, and not dumbed-down. In other words, if I'm going to pay to have someone deliver a stack of printed pages to my mailbox every week, The Economist will bring me far less wasted paper.

    It's also mentioning that The Economist does not print any bylines for its articles. So to Tom Friedman's complaints, cry me a river. Do I subscribe to the New York Times because I want an informative, timely, in-depth news resource, or do I subscribe because I like to read so-called rock star columnists? Personally, I don't even read Tom Friedman's column, because his books have been massive disappointments. Talk about overrated. So should a guy like Tom Friedman be allowed to hold an entire news gathering organization hostage to his own ego? Tell you what, Tom: If you're such a public treasure, start a blog. Surely the people will flock to it. Or could it be that the only reason anybody read your column at all was because of the New York Times, and not the other way around?

    The success of a subscription program for the Times' Web site will probably all depend on the price they charge for it. Certainly there will have to be opportunities to get stuff for free, as Salon.com has done. Even The Economist offers a 14-day free trial. Even then, the idea that anyone will pay even a fraction of the cost of a subscription to the New York Times just to read one or two articles a week -- or one or two articles a month -- is nuts. Somebody needs to do the hard research to figure out a realistic rate of payment for the content that people actually read. A monthly or yearly subscription fee, when nothing is showing up in the mailbox and you never remember to go and look at the site, isn't going to work.

    At the same time, I worry about the concept of newspapers as a public good. Everyone, no matter their income level, is entitled to know what's going on in their government and the world at large. If newspapers close themselves off only to paying subscribers, you force the economically disadvantaged to venues such as TV news. On the one hand, local TV news has been turned over almost entirely to fluff. On the other, cable outlets like Fox News look increasingly like propaganda weapons.

    So what to do? I've long tho

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      mrphoton says he'll read www.bbc.co.uk instead. That's all well and good, but the BBC is supported by British taxes, while the New York Times is a private newspaper. There's a strong tradition of separation of media and government in the U.S. and it isn't likely to ever change.

      You seem to be missing the point that the BBC often has better coverage of U.S. news than U.S. newspapers (specifically including the NYT) and by better I mean less chock-full of bullshit and sensationalism. Not that those things aren't in plenty of evidence over at the beeb — they certainly are. The LA Times is twice the paper the NYT ever was, and it blows too.

  • by omar.sahal (687649) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:46PM (#30802558) Homepage Journal

    that online advertising might never grow big enough to sustain the paper's high-cost, ambitious journalis

    Inside the newsroom, the protracted talks have frustrated staffers who want clarity on where the paper is headed. “It’s a real problem,” one staffer explained. “It’s embarrassing and reflects badly on the Times that they can’t make a decision. They’re fighting among themselves.”

    What makes the decision so agonizing for Sulzberger is that it involves not just business considerations, but ultimately a self-assessment of just what Times journalism is worth to the world.

    “At some point we gotta charge for our product.”

    This sounds like a bunch of desperate people. What the news industry seams to have lost track of is that the Internet is a new medium, unlike the printing press, radio stations or tv stations it not a business that

    • needs a large amount of capital to enter
    • is a synchronous meduim

    Its seems silly to ignore these differences, and I doubt a successful business can be built, with out these issues being taken into account.

    Perhaps some kind of low cost strategy, such as articles being written by free lancers (who would be paid on a commission/bonus only basis). There could then be a reply service which would allow another side to the story, giving the people who read the articles the two arguments to judge for them selves. Putting all of this online and allowing people to subscribe to a topic they find of interest (and delivering a individual paper) to your own home every day/week for a fee. This will give you Google like ability to profile users (address plus billing details) along with more effective targeted adverting. Its a lot more complicated than this but its a start.

    Of cause this would open up another can of worms (big media is also about control of information)

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:47PM (#30802566)

    ...and I don't think it's entirely out of greed. The simple truth is that you can't pay columnists, reporters and other staff unless you have sufficient revenue. If people are abandoning the print version of the paper, and advertisers don't see the return they expect from ads, you lose a lot of per-copy revenue and ad revenue.

    The truth is that the old model of "sell a paper for $1.00 a day, collect $XM in ad revenue per year, and your profit is that less your employment and other costs" is going away. Now, quality media outlets are faced with a tough choice. (Yes, I know, we can debate quality, but I happen to like the Times.) They have to choose to provide their content free, while only recouping part of their costs from ad sales, or charging for content and hoping enough people like the paper enough to pay.

    I see this causing two problems:

    For journalism in general: When are people going to realize that actual journalism, investigative reporting, and other well-researched pieces cost money? Call me an old fogey if you want, but I think this transition we're going through is going to make it much tougher to get well-written, well-research, less-biased content. Look at how CNN has jumped in with both feet on the whole Web 2.0/Twitter/Facebook user-generated content. Some of the well-written stuff actually makes the television news, but the vast majority of it is a garbage dump compared to a legitimate news organization. Can you imagine the historical record of the Haitian earthquake filled with stuff like "OMG OMG teh quakez suX0rz dude" ? That's overblown, but you get the idea... Same thing goes for the reporting of both sides of an issue. Would you rather have a news organization making some attempt to neutrally report, or would you rather have the Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh blogs against the ACORN and ELF blogs? Investigative reporting is even more important, and I'm not talking about papparazzi stalking celebrities. Would Watergate have ever been uncovered without a news organization paying to cover it?

    For employment: I've seen this kind of rationalization of every single penny of cost happening over the last few years. Outside of journalism, it happens every day...a software developer in India is 10% the cost of a US one, or we can eliminate this raft of manual processes by automating the whole thing. Some of this is good...I'm glad I'm not a file clerk at a huge insurance company, for example. But, it has to stop somewhere. There are some people who need mundane work. Manufacturing used to provide that, now it's gone. Not everyone can be a manager, or sell things, or manage projects. If you eliminate everyone's job, especially those at the low end of the skill spectrum, you're going to have a lot of unemployed consumers who can't buy your product.

    • by jbolden (176878) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @09:39PM (#30803780) Homepage

      Would Watergate have ever been uncovered without a news organization paying to cover it?

      In today's world, W. Mark Felt would have had an anonymous identity and leaked good information to Firedoglake or Daily Kos. The blogs would have picked up on it. The information would have sounded credible and so a Rachel Maddow would have started to cover it in detail and the whole thing breaks a year earlier than it did under the Washington Post.

    • by wytcld (179112) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @10:00PM (#30803910) Homepage

      Name an important piece of investigative journalism done by the Times in the last ten years. I can't. And I'm a regular reader. It's increasingly a "lifestyle" paper. It sees its crucial missions as propping up the real estate market in NYC (with fascinating articles like the one suggesting that since banks aren't lending, maybe you young people can borrow the half-million for a starter apartment from your folks), and pretending to be liberal while propping up most of the neocon fantasies about an American new world order (even before cheerleading Iraq, it was responsible for the absurd Whitewater charges).

      I like half their editorial columnists. They have a couple of good economic writers. And I'm entertained by the lifestyle and real estate fluff. Plus at least their front page is by their own writers rather than the AP - which continues a rapid descent in quality too. And some of their NYC coverage is unavailable elsewhere - although only of interest to people with lives or roots in the city.

  • by BlackSabbath (118110) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:05PM (#30802728) Homepage

    Huzzah!

    Seriously though, it seems that the management's earlier lesson didn't sink in too well:
    http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2007/09/17/new-york-times-figures-out-the-web-its-free/ [antiwar.com]

    I get the "good journalism costs money" argument. However, what this shows is that while it is possible for businesses to make money off internet advertising, the Times couldn't figure out how to do it.

    While I doubt we'll ever know, my guess is that their revenue from subscription will be less than that from advertising. If their top tier talent hang around, they will bleed money until they are bought by someone with deeper pockets (who will reverse this dumb-ass decision and start some serious cost cutting). If they walk, then the value of the business will shrink making them an unlikely target. My guess is the latter. The talent will walk. An "indie" Krugman/Friedman/Dowd blog could probably earn enough advertising revenue to support them. The rest will disappear.

    If that happens then there will be a REAL shakeup in the old-school media franchises.

  • Let Them Try (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Comatose51 (687974) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:25PM (#30802878) Homepage
    Newspapers are losing money. They're trying to figure out how to get "this Internet thing" to work for them. I know a lot of you have ideas and think that they're good but, to be honest, I doubt most of us here knows the intricacies of newspapers. It's their trade and their business. Let them try and figure it out how to make it work. That's what capitalism is all about after all. Good ideas live and bad ideas die off. Their current business model is apparently not working. Something has to change. If it works, then good for them. If you don't like it, don't pay for it. Not everything that has a price is bad. Until they go around suing people for inflated sums of money, I have no objections to what they're doing.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @08:18PM (#30803244)
    People have developed this odd belief that anything you see on the internet only took an upload to produce. News has a cost and if papers can't make money, they're going to stop doing it.

Unix is the worst operating system; except for all others. -- Berry Kercheval

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