New York Times Starts Charging!

Rich Tehrani : Communications and Technology Blog - Tehrani.com
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New York Times Starts Charging!

I have heard grumbling from the New York Times for a few months now about online revenue. There was a BusinessWeek article for example a few months back that mentioned the company was struggling to find a way to charge for their content.

I really had a tough time believing that the company would generate significant revenue by charging and I knew if they started they would lose lots of traffic. Somehow the Wall Street Journal has pulled it off but even though the Wall Street Journal probably has roughly the same amount of content, they have 1/3 the readership of the New York Times based on Alexa.com data.

WSJ can probably charge because they are giving out substantial financial information people feel is worth paying for.

Here is a chart that compares how the two sites rank. This rank is a combination of unique visitors and page views over time and smaller numbers are better as they are closest to the #1 most viewed site online.

Getting back to the Times, they have reached a compromise where some of the columnists will not be available to non-subscribers unless they pay a $49.95 fee. These readers will also get access to archives and other premium content.

Analysts fear the Times will lose valuable links and discussion from the blogging community after this move but the Times wisely countered by allowing bloggers to sell subscriptions on their sites and get paid. Obviously the New York Times management thought this through.

Still, I give this plan a 25% chance of working and I get the feeling the newspaper shares my pessimism. The paper is in a tough position because as a general news site it is tough to break out of the mold and charge higher rates when you are being compared to so many other general purpose advertising vehicles. Still, the Times is a premium place to have an ad and as such they should be able to generate the revenue increase needed by redoubling their efforts to go after companies to spend marketing dollars online. Within 18 months I predict we will see the paper pull back this offer and make a change that somehow allows them the potential to sell more ads. Either way, I wish them luck.

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