Only three years ago, The New York Times scrapped its paid digital content service TimesSelect, after it failed to bring in significant revenue. With rumors swirling since last summer about a similar move happening again, the news giant finally confirmed that it would implementa paid content model — set to roll out in 2011.
The New York Times Company has tried nearly everything to keep the historical publication afloat: reducing the size of the paper and the number of sections printed, cutting back on employee benefits and offering buyouts to employees in an effort to trim newsroom staff. Still, the newspaper industry as a whole is struggling, and not even the Times is immune. Though online reactions were anything but positive – aMashable poll found that the majority of respondents would not pay for the paper’s online content – moving to a paid model seems like a natural move for this industry leader.
Since Wednesday’s announcement, NYTimes has been assuring customers that the decision to institute a paid model was well thought out, and that it won’t be as drastic as people think. Visitors will be allowed to view a certain number of articles each month, with the option to pay once the limit is reached. This has the potential to get messy — referring back to the Wall Street Journal’sfight with Google just a few months ago to block search engine crawlers — as users could find ways around these pay walls. Additionally, The New York Times site also hosts anumber of blogs that deliver quality content in a more casual setting. It would be wise for the Times to keep these blogs free of charge, especially for casual readers who look to NYTimes for up-to-the-minute news and opinions.
In 2009, Sparxoo ranked The New York Times 2nd on our list of the top 25 digital influencers in news and politics due to their firm grasp on social media and skilled execution of dispensing news using these new digital mediums. When The New York Times content is hidden behind a pay wall in 2011, the newspaper and digital influencer’s buzzworthiness might fade — as less people have access to the content.
Will paid content kill online readership for the New York Times? Not likely. A comparison search on Compete.com finds that The Wall Street Journal, which is known for having a similar paid content model, is not that far behind the NYTimes in terms of web hits and unique visitors – good news for NYTimes. Still, NYTimes must think about the big picture: will paid access be profitable in the long...