Magazine article Editor & Publisher

WWNYTD: What Would the New York Times' Do?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

WWNYTD: What Would the New York Times' Do?

Article excerpt

AS ADVERTISING REVENUES CONTINUE TO TREND down, the newspaper industry has been forced to revisit the subject of paid online content. There s been much talk and debate among publishers and pundits about whether or not to charge, but there's one thing they can agree upon: looking to The New York Times as a bellwether.

The nation's most trafficked newspaper Web site, NYTimes.com is always under the microscope. The announcement in January that it was going to adopt a metered model similar to the one used by the Financial Times could kick-start other publishers to charge as well. The industry will have to wait until 2011, when the Times officially implements the meter.

For now, Times executives are doling out information piecemeal, since the company is still building a system to handle the new subscription process and make sure it's tied to circulation databases. What has been revealed, though, is that readers will be allowed free access to a set number of articles per month before reaching a requirement to pay. Print subscribers, executives keep emphasizing, will get complete access to the site for free. Sixty percent of NYTimes.com's users come to the site via the homepage, and the vast majority of people who read more than 10 articles a month also come through the homepage.

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Other factors have not yet been revealed, including the ceiling on free articles and how much the Times plans to charge. While the Times Co. has plenty of time in 2010 to make those decisions, that didn't prevent executives from making a public appearance at the paidContent 2010 conference in New York on Feb. 19. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of the company and publisher of the flagship, CEO Janet Robinson and Senior VP/Digital Operations Martin Nisenholtz all agreed to sit down with paidContent's Staci D. Kramer to answer her questions regarding the metered model and field more from those in attendance.

Kramer threw out the first query to Robinson that immediately got to the heart of how the NYTimes.com pay system could potentially confuse consumers. "You hear people calling it a 'pay wall' and that is not really the term you want to hear used," Kramer said. What is the difference between a metered model and a pay wall? She asked.

Good question. If Robinson, Sulzberger and Nisenholtz have to be assiduously diligent schooling people about the distinction, it might not bode so well with consumers who might shy away from the site because they think all the content is locked. …

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