London’s Times is putting up a paywall, a move that they have explained to readers here (excerpt below).
One part of the logic here makes complete sense: You can’t charge readers for the print version, give the online version away for free, and expect readers not to drop the print version (although this migration has taken a surprisingly long time, in part because it’s a generational thing).
This should be a primary reason for the NYT’s possible paywall, as well: Preserving the print version cash cow for as long as possible.
And it’s worth a try, especially because, without trying, newspapers would have to have looked back forever and wondered what might have been.
That said, we doubt these moves will do any more than lengthen the amount of time it will take newspapers to drastically cut their staffs and kill their print papers. Every paywall that goes up makes free news sites more attractive. The free business is tough, but viable, and free sites appear to be here to stay.
If we are asking politicians to be honest, it is important we practise what we preach. Nowhere is this more crucial than with journalism on the internet. At present we are in the absurd position of charging people £2 for our newspaper while simultaneously offering the same content free online. The flawed logic was that internet advertising would pay for it. The recession has put a stop to that, so giving away expensive journalism is financially unsustainable and ultimately bad for us and our readers.
At The Sunday Times we put an enormous amount of money and effort into producing the best journalism we possibly can. If we keep giving it away we will no longer be able to do that. Inevitably the spending will decline, and with it the quality of the journalism…
However, without this investment, the British public would see a steady fall in the quality and diversity of the information they receive and learn less about how they are governed. We have perhaps the most lively and competitive press in the world, but that has been possible only because it is based on commercial success.
The decision to create a separate website for The Sunday Times is thus a significant development. It, too, is expensive and we have decided to charge £2 a week for access to our huge range of content and to that of The Times, which is also building a new website. We believe many readers will be prepared to pay this relatively small amount because they value our journalism and they understand that nothing of value is free.
We acknowledge the risk involved when much other good journalism is still available free online. However, we believe that if we are transparent with our readers and explain the financial realities, they will support our move. Ultimately we think that other newspapers will follow, and that the only free content online will be of inferior quality or supplied by the BBC. Even that organisation is finally beginning to realise it should stop trying to become a publisher online, and is cutting back on its massive internet spending.
We are in the midst of a publishing revolution, and if we get our finances right, you, our valued readers, will benefit from a new golden age in which we can devote more time and money to bringing you the very best journalism in the finest traditions of The Sunday Times.
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