Two weeks ago, we detailed our plan to save the New York Times (NYT):
- 40% cost cuts by 2010
- Increased print subscription price
- Implement online subscription fee
For the latter, we were roundly blasted by socialist digerati, who regard subscriptions as heresy.
Well, we’re glad to see there is intelligent life where it counts–at the New York Times. Editor Bill Keller says the paper is committed to getting consumers to pay for its content and will explore the idea of online subscriptions. We only hope Bill’s wisdom finds its way upstairs!
Some of Bill’s remarks summarized by PaidContent:
—Information wants to get paid: Keller rejected the concept that says “information wants to be free.” The exception is “really good information,” such as the kind of comprehensive coverage offered by the NYT. “TimesSelect generated something like $10 million a year, which was real money, but in the end the company calculated that we’d be better off taking down the wall and letting the flood of additional visitors to the Web site attract advertising dollars. The lesson of that experiment, however, was not that readers won’t pay for content. A lot of people in the news business, myself included, don’t buy as a matter of theology that information “wants to be free.” Really good information, often extracted from reluctant sources, truth-tested, organised and explained — that stuff wants to be paid for.”
—A subscription model: On second thought, maybe TimesSelect is the right way to go, Keller mused in a kind of Socratic dialogue. Perhaps the problem was that the wrong items were placed behind the pay wall. Maybe the all the paper’s online content should come with a price to consumers; maybe a just a slice of it. Maybe WSJ.com and FT.com have the right idea. Then again, those papers count on business readers who just charge their company for access. The general reader might not pull out the credit card for access to news that will remain available for free elsewhere. Even worse, doing so would limit web traffic, which would depress ad revenues even further. Still, Keller isn’t totally giving up on the idea: “Paid content tends not to show up in Web searches, which makes it less appealing to advertisers. They don’t open their books, but if they did I’ll bet you’d see that The Journal’s Web site generates far less revenue than ours. But if Web advertising takes a long dive — or if some clever engineer figures out how to decouple a paid Web site from the search function — a subscription model might be worth a closer look.”
Bill is wrong about paid content not showing up in searches, by the way (at least some paid content). One of the brilliant elements of the WSJ’s plan is that the site is fully searchable and every story can be accessed through search engines for free. What subscribers are paying for is the ability to read the Wall Street Journal directly, instead of having to accidentally discover stories through search engines.
But you go, Bill! Save our hometown paper!
See Also: Our Plan To Fix The New York Times