The New York Times (NYT) is considering charging $55/year for online access, a source tells us (no additional details).
Arthur Sulzberger told an audience at Stony Brook yesterday that the paper is looking at charging for some of its online content (sounds like the return of Times Select, which would be a bad idea). NYT spokesperson Catherine Mathis tells us the paper is looking at everything.
Inasmuch as the NYT is looking at everything, here’s the right way to add an online subscription fee (which we think the paper should do)…and the wrong way.
The Right Way
- Charge an online subscription fee ($75/yr?) to access most of NYTimes.com. Provide free access to classifieds, AP stories, and a handful of viral NYT stories a day. Charge for the rest. Give print subs a major discount on the online fee.
- Make the entire site crawlable by Google and readable/linkable by bloggers and other sites. The paper’s content will thus stay firmly embedded in the online conversation. Each article will be available online for free (through Google), but if someone wants to read “The New York Times,” he or she will need to pony up. This is the way the WSJ does it, and the WSJ’s traffic is half the NYTimes.com traffic, even with an $80/yr subscription fee.
In time, this will likely generate an incremental revenue stream of $50-$75 million (1mm subs paying $50-$75/yr). The traffic to individual articles and NYTimes.com free stuff, meanwhile, should allow the company to preserve its existing ad revenue. (With less of an inventory glut, the company will also be able to charge more per ad unit.)
The Wrong Way
- Erect a paywall that limits access to all New York Times content to paid subscribers.
This won’t produce enough revenue to save the paper, and it will just make its content irrelevant.
IMPORTANT: Charging An Online Subscription Fee Will Not Save The Paper
An incremental $50-$75 million a year will buy the company more time to sell assets, restructure its business, and pacify its creditors, but it won’t save the place. The only way to do that, in our opinion, is to radically cut costs.
Our plan to fix the New York Times, for example, starts with an across-the-board cost cut of 40% by 2010 >
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