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New York Times to charge online readers
January 17, 2010 3:25 PM   Subscribe

New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations. After a year of sometimes fraught debate inside the paper, the choice for some time has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. The Times seems to have settled on the metered system. Will this be a success? A Harris poll released earlier this month found that 77 percent said they wouldn't pay anything to read a newspaper's stories on the Web. Of those who indicated they were willing to be charged for access to content, 19 percent would pay between $1 and $10 a month.
posted by VikingSword (146 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I guess this will be my impetus to finally change my homepage from NYTimes.com to MetaFilter. Count me as one of the people destroying newspapers by my unwillingness to pay for news online.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:28 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hanging over the deliberations is the fact that the Times’ last experience with pay walls, TimesSelect, was deeply unsatisfying and exposed a rift between Sulzberger and his roster of A-list columnists, particularly Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd, who grew frustrated at their dramatic fall-off in online readership. Not long before the Times ultimately pulled the plug on TimesSelect, Friedman wrote Sulzberger a long memo explaining that, while he was initially supportive of TimesSelect, he’d been alarmed that he had lost most of his readers in India and China and the Middle East.

I had no idea TimesSelect had made such a meaningful contribution to global discourse.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:32 PM on January 17, 2010 [14 favorites]


This should help clean up the Metafilter front page a bit.
posted by nanojath at 3:33 PM on January 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


I look forward to the New York Torrents.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:34 PM on January 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'll only pay for stories when the reporter maintains in appropriate relationships with the article's subjects and then falsifies information with the express intent of lying to the public and goading us into war. I can get all of my light entertainment elsewhere for free from other sources, including my plagiarism (although The Times has always done such a nice job with that one). But you really can't beat The Times for gross violations of journalistic integrity married with war-mongering. It's worth every penny.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:34 PM on January 17, 2010 [18 favorites]


While the news is free and available everywhere, trustworthy journalism isn't. I will pay for the NYT because I like their product.
posted by birdwatcher at 3:35 PM on January 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also, is there a Firefox addon that blocks that automatic linking text from being created when you copy text from a New Your Magazine article?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:36 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting, related article, with the thesis that the only text content on the Web that can be sold effectively is stuff that is "wildly unique and immensely useful." The NY Times is not sufficiently unique to charge for content. Consumer Reports, on the other hand, has a well established reputation of unimpeachable product reviews.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:36 PM on January 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I hadn't thought of this, but yeah. Any newspaper that charges, exits the global conversation. $1 to $10 a month? In India?
posted by effugas at 3:40 PM on January 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Geez, I really hope they don't do this. In an immediate sense it might not impact me, since I get the printed version and I presume that online access would be included. But long-term, it strikes me as a terrible idea. It takes the articles out of the public discourse and off into a limited-access zone.

I get that newspapers are caught between a rock and hard place, and need to figure out a new economic model. I just really, really doubt that paying for web access is going to play a significant role for many papers. Like CPB says above, most papers (Times included) are insufficiently unique to make this work.
posted by Forktine at 3:47 PM on January 17, 2010


Oh god. I don't have an answer to the question of how we might go about saving print journalism, but this definitely isn't how.
posted by killdevil at 3:49 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another small step towards making Jon Stewart the most important news source in America.
posted by warbaby at 3:51 PM on January 17, 2010 [18 favorites]


I will pay for the NYT because I like their product.

Huh. I always thought that one of the FEATURES of "TimesSelect" was that it lowered my chances of being exposed to the blatherings of writers like Dowd and Friedman and Brooks.

Awful stuff. I have no idea why they deserve a national stage - let alone one that I need to pay for.

Plus, you know: Judith Miller.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 3:51 PM on January 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Google has figured out how to make money with micro-ads. No annoying floatie ads (hello nytimes.com), no blinking ads, no ads pretending to be content (hello msn). Craigslist is killing newspapers giving away classifieds, with a plain vanilla screen(thanks, craig). Why have the big content producers sucked so hard at selling content-related micro-ads?

Hello. Welcome to the Internet. It's all about content.
NYTimes, you have really good content. Get better ads. Your readership will tank if you charge.
posted by theora55 at 3:51 PM on January 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Stories like this are why I laugh my ass off at people who suggest that something is killing newspapers. This is the stupidest fucking possible thing the NYT could have done. It's the ultimate, perfect example of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:52 PM on January 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


I like Salon's model where you can choose to receive adds instead of paying a subscription. Do you want a free but ad-supported (i.e. cluttered) site or pay a fee for a better experience.

The user gets what they want and the paper gets revenue either way.
posted by oddman at 3:53 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know, I don't think I've visited the New York Times for years, because I was turned off by the whole TimesSelect thing, as I am with any site that tries to make you log in to view content, even for free, and was blissfully unaware that they had turned it off again years ago.

Sites that put up pay-walls or log -in-walls tend to enter a kind of black hole for me, from which they can never emerge. I just write them off as not worth my bother. If a significant number of other people feel the same way, then they're on dangerous ground even experimenting with stuff like this.
posted by Jimbob at 3:54 PM on January 17, 2010


If you'd like to hear my opinion on this subject, please PayPal me a dollar.
posted by box at 3:55 PM on January 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


Oh shit, I was half way down the hall to get a coffee when an idea struck me on how to save the news industry...make money on the supply side!

Given that the majority of what passes for journalism these days is simply re-edited press releases, all newspapers have to do is start charging the people who send in the press releases if they want them published!

Problem solved.
posted by Jimbob at 3:59 PM on January 17, 2010 [21 favorites]


What does this mean for the NY Times iPhone App? I read it every morning over breakfast, and I'll be a bit peeved if they shut it off or make me pony up a monthly subscription fee.

Off-topic, I'm constantly baffled by people - like Jimbob - who complain so bitterly about news sites requiring free registration. I registered for the NY Times, Washington Post, and Boston.com years ago, and at this point I've completely forgotten it was ever necessary. I don't get spam from any of them, ever. So what's the problem?
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:07 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh well, I'll never read the New York Times again.

I'm trying to come up with how this will somehow negatively impact me in any way.
posted by empath at 4:07 PM on January 17, 2010


I think they will indeed be able to succeed at selling their content electronically, but not in the form of 'web pages'. It has to be a discrete 'product' - something 'packaged' in a clearly distinct form, with a clear 'path' through the content (which is also a description of the thing they sell on the streets of NY).

It seems pretty likely that an awful lot of people are soon going to have tablets in their briefcase/backpack, and I can easily create a mental vision of an 'issue' of the newspaper that could appear there daily (by auto download), ready for reading from the sofa, the breakfast table, the bus on the way to work, or in the coffee shop, all the places that people currently consume their news 'package'.

As for the 'will they pay for it' question, I have some (small) experience with this myself. On various places on my own site, I have content structured in two ways: in one place as normal web pages, which you 'click around' to read. The same content is also on the site formatted into 'book' form, where the reading experience matches the old-fashioned method ... start at page one, proceed from there, etc. etc. This version people have to pay for, and (this is important) they get the thing in a download package. They get a 'product' - something that they 'own'.

This 'experiment' has been in place for over two years now. Even with exactly the same content available completely free for browsing, lots of people (in my small-scale universe) are happy to pay for it - as long as they get an improved reading experience, and it is packaged in a format that provides them with an 'ownership' feeling.
posted by woodblock100 at 4:11 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was just reading NYT online before I saw this post, but I think my readership of it has fallen off some lately. If it goes paywall I'll stop reading and see if I miss it.
posted by ghharr at 4:11 PM on January 17, 2010


Folks who don't like free registrations, please feel free to use my NYT login: optedout/optedout. Enjoy it while you can.

(Or, if you don't like that one, bugmenot has others.)
posted by box at 4:12 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


My home town newspaper went pay-only on their web site about four years ago, which is coincidentally about the last time I visited their site.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 4:15 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


When Tom fucking Friedman knows you're doing something stupid then, well, you're abbout to do something really fucking stupid.
posted by bardic at 4:21 PM on January 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


I registered for the NY Times, Washington Post, and Boston.com years ago, and at this point I've completely forgotten it was ever necessary. I don't get spam from any of them, ever. So what's the problem?

Then problem is, I think, that I don't get my news from one source. I don't visit the website of newspaper X every morning to read the news. I check them out occasionally, when I remember to, or when someone has linked to an article on them. And so I get there, to find that the site has forgotten my cookie/session, and I have to log in again! This just ads a layer of frustration when all I want to do is spend 30 seconds quickly reading an article.

And the fact that people don't get their news from just one source is why this sort of model is bound to fail. Why would I pay $10 a month to subscribe to the New York Times, when it's only one of several dozen newspaper sites I might access over the course of a month? Will I need to pay $10 to all of them? No way. I'll just go visit the BBC or ABC instead.
posted by Jimbob at 4:25 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'll bet this decision is timed to the release of Apple's tablet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:28 PM on January 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Funny iTablet timing. I bet it works.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:29 PM on January 17, 2010


Off-topic, I'm constantly baffled by people - like Jimbob - who complain so bitterly about news sites requiring free registration.

The Times thinks I'm an elderly woman somewhere in one of the first countries on the drop-down list. Azerbaijan, maybe?

The point being, free registration doesn't even have to involve anything more real than the yahoo or gmail account you use for all those online registrations, which is obviously not your day to day email account.

For a quick, one-time visit, bugmenot works great, but I've found that the log-ins it gives tend to fail quite quickly, so it doesn't work well for long-term access.
posted by Forktine at 4:34 PM on January 17, 2010


Fools. Newspapers were the first advertiser funded medium. The retail price (as I remember being told once) barely covers the cost of printing the damn thing. They make their money with ads.

Why don't they just "print" the newspaper on the website the same way it is printed, with the same ads? Surely a webserver is cheaper than printing a newspaper every day.
posted by gjc at 4:35 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would pay for news online with my state's paper.

The only problem is my local newspaper considers an online edition to be a convenience worth charging a premium for rather than passing on the savings of not having to print the damn thing. Plus you have to use some crappy app that was Windows only, couldn't be installed on locked down work computers and yada yada yada. Just make a web based version of the paper behind a pay-wall if you really need to.

But now I'm at a new location with my job and I have to drive to work rather than taking the train so nuts to all of them. I'll just read the paper that they provide at work.
posted by Talez at 4:37 PM on January 17, 2010


Why don't they just "print" the newspaper on the website the same way it is printed, with the same ads? Surely a webserver is cheaper than printing a newspaper every day.

You have got kind of a point, actually. The only benefit of paper newspapers (apart from their useful flammability and absorbency properties) is that they are something linear that you can actually browse through, beginning to end, and discover something interesting along the way that you wouldn't have ordinarily searched for or clicked on on a website. That little 3-inch column about some obscure local news on page 17 that you would have never come across casually browsing their site. I can just about see the point of paying for a daily PDF of the New York Times.
posted by Jimbob at 4:39 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there some reason why content providers like the Times aren't trying to extract revenue from ISP's, either as part of the existing monthly payments we all make for Internet access, or as an additional, flat-rate surcharge appended to our bills? Cox, Qwest, etc. wouldn't be doing nearly the sort of business they are if it weren't for the content side of the Internet. Fees could be apportioned to content providers based on how much time is spent at each one. Given peoples resistance to paying monthly service fees to various websites -- which is only going grow when people are faced with paying monthly subscription fees to 20-odd websites they visit regularly -- this seems like the only real workable solution.
posted by decoherence at 4:40 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think all newspapers are going to start charging for content soon, because giving it away for free just isn't working for them. (I guess I should say "us," as I work for a paper.) Frankly, I prefer paying for content, because I think a product that's driven by that model is generally better quality than one driven by advertising revenue. The question is how much people are willing to pay for articles online. Papers should be able to keep prices down online because the infrastructure costs are that much lower, but that doesn't mean they will.

There will still be plenty of free information online because we're all online now, and we're all posting information in some form or another. But as long as the papers do a better job of news gathering and analysis than your average blogger/Twitterer, and they all have paywalls, there will be a market for them and people will hand over their micropayments. Whether or not you think they do that job now, of course, is a different post.

Personally, I don't think this will work unless all news sites agree upon some form of common payment/wallet. So you load up your wallet and a few pennies are deducted whenever you read a NY Times article, a Toronto Star article, a Jerusalem Post article, etc., without having to set up a registration and payment plan for each site. Subscriptions to papers don't make much sense to me in this age. Could be a good model for bloggers and indie-media types to start earning money for the work they do as well.

Or maybe papers are all dead and in their zombie phase right now.
posted by showmethecalvino at 4:46 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


FWIW, has anyone forwarded the idea that the problem here could be resolved by the nytimes simply not having any internet presence? It would suck for me personally, but not having any content on the nytimes website might restore the value of the printed pages to advertisers and consumers? Just wondering.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 4:48 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The New York Times is one of the best papers in the country, but they're still a bit shit compared to The Guardian. They'll basically have to turn into yet another variation on New York Magazine in order to support themselves on a subscription basis. It's just as well.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:49 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the heads up. I just downloaded the whole thing, so I'm all set.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:50 PM on January 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not worried about the NYTimes specifically, so much as the general trend. This will put the Journal and the NYT behind a wall: I'm scared to see what will happen if this continues with all my other news sources. Soon I'll be forced to get updated on major world events by Gawker.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 5:14 PM on January 17, 2010


I'm trying to come up with how this will somehow negatively impact me in any way.

I'm trying to come up with how that will somehow negatively impact the New York Times in any way.

The problem with news sites since the very beginning has been old-world thinking, at a fundamental level. In print, the number of readers you have matters more than anything. It affects the amount of power you have to stick your boot in doors and demand answers, and more vitally it affects how many adverts you get and how much you can charge for them.

When papers went online, it was assumed that the same facts would hold true. Papers set about "building audiences" by showering readers freely with content that's expensive to produce, in the hopes that grabbing the audience would later allow them to monetise it. Virtually every part of this thinking was wrong: you can't "grab" audiences when all it takes to switch to a competitor is a click of the mouse; you can't monetise audiences when they're not exclusive or rich, and especially not when you're drowning in competition. Ad rates plummeted. None of the papers on this model have websites that have ever even approached the black.

Fast-forward to now. All the people in this thread going "well, I'll never read them again" ... well, they know this. And don't care, because you're just an expense anyway. The gamble now has to be that the numbers who remain are a) large enough to pay for the newsroom and b) exclusive enough for the ad sales team to monetise.

I think Blazecock Pileon has a good point, too: I suspect this isn't so much about the web -- people looking to make money from content would be as well writing it off entirely at this point -- as it is about monetising devices where people are willing to pay: the iPhone, the supposed Tablet, the Kindle and so on. The web presence could disappear entirely and what would they lose? The money they make from ads isn't enough, so it might as well be pocket change. Hell, the money Google makes from its global ads is only a tenth of what the US newspapers made in their worst year to date; and these guys don't have a hope of approaching AdSense.

It's a gamble all right, but all these publications are fighting for their lives. It's time to try more than the same old "throw it out for free" system that has been failing them for the past 15 years.
posted by bonaldi at 5:25 PM on January 17, 2010 [26 favorites]


No worries. Just quote the important pieces of any particular article and put it on a blog.
Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports.
What's good for the goose…
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:28 PM on January 17, 2010


Both NPR and PBS predate the internet, both maintain an online presence in parallel with traditional broadcasting, and both have operated on a donations model (with limited corporate advertising) for years.

Why is this never raised as a possibility for newspapers?
posted by kid ichorous at 5:31 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is terrible news speculation but it matches what I have been hearing from employee friends there. It's pretty well known that the Times is in deep financial trouble at present an that Times Select was a monumental financial failure as well. It's choosing between the proverbial rock you know what. Times Select never got the revenue for the company that i.e. the Wall Street Journal got the Bancroft's and later Murdoch. While the Times might just be the one company that does have the content to justify some price being paid for it it's still going to dramatically limit and thereby damage the reach of the brand.

I am much more for a NPR/Wikimedia approach of annual pledge drives to support the website. It preserved the reach and at the same time gathers additional funding. I am also very strongly in favor of monetizing additional services like i.e. Times People. I am however as strongly opposed as I could be to locking down the site.

Quality journalism should be as easy to consume as possible, not something that's tougher to get to than TMZ.
posted by krautland at 5:34 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's to stop a large group from buying a single login id and sharing it among its members? (not naming any particular group here.) The best I could imaging they could do to counter it is to only allow one login at a time per id, but that would just cut down the size of the group, not eliminate the problem.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:35 PM on January 17, 2010


It's about time. Much as I love reading news for free online, newspapers everywhere have to get serious about monetizing their online content - all of it - before they all just fade away.
posted by Dasein at 5:41 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


TimesSelect was stupid and doomed to failure because nobody, but nobody, was about to pay for OpEd pieces. Nothing is cheaper on the internet than opinions, even Maureen Dowd's.

A pay-wall for news content is a whole different matter. The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times get a double benefit from it: plenty of people buy the on-line edition standalone, and plenty of people keep up their print subscriptions because they can't get it free online.

The biggest impact, I think, will be an upsurge in weekend subscriptions to the NYT print edition that will throw in a 24/7 online subscription. I keep my weekend subscription mainly for the coupons and to have something to read while getting coffee and then up on the elliptical on in-town Saturdays and Sundays, but was thinking about letting it lapse. Getting over a pay-wall will be enough for me to renew.
posted by MattD at 5:46 PM on January 17, 2010


"newspapers everywhere have to get serious about monetizing their online content"

Too little too late.
posted by bardic at 5:47 PM on January 17, 2010


Newspapers remind me of the old timer on the cart in The Holy Grail. After he says "I'm not dead yet!" someone clubs him on the head to complete the job.
posted by digsrus at 5:51 PM on January 17, 2010


NYTimes, you have really good content. Get better ads. Your readership will tank if you charge.

What is the value of having readers if they can't be monetized? Also you seem to think that there are infinitely many advertisers who will just purchase the ads on your website.
posted by humanfont at 5:51 PM on January 17, 2010


Dear NYTimes; are you still going to put women's issues in the "Style" section? Spend your money writing shit articles about trends among obscenely rich white folks? Yeah. Won't miss you much.
posted by emjaybee at 5:55 PM on January 17, 2010


Cookie /ISP keeps group readers out.another lefty site gone!.good news for America.
posted by Postroad at 5:56 PM on January 17, 2010


This should help clean up the Metafilter front page a bit.

I find statements like this fascinating. The reason why lots of stories from the New York Times end up on the front page of MetaFilter is because is because the New York Times publishes a lot of stories that MetaFilter readers seem to find interesting and discussion worthy. If you think that those kind of posts are overrated, cool, but the fact that they happen regularly is evidence for, not against, their relevance to this community. I probably read at least 100 NYT stories a month, and unless they try to charge $20/month or more I'll subscribe to this because I don't think it's fair for me to consume that much of their content without paying something for it, regardless of whether advertising is displayed alongside, and because I naively think that whether or not it informs me, the continued existence of financially healthy professional journalism will benefit me by keeping the rest of the country better informed than it would otherwise be. I suppose that many people here disagree that the New York Times makes a net positive contribution to U.S. and global public policy discourse, but I think that's belied by how much NYT content is discussed here.
posted by gsteff at 6:14 PM on January 17, 2010 [16 favorites]


Let me see if I have this right. Newspapers aren't making money on their print editions because people are reading more and more online. Newspapers aren't making money online because people expect web content for free (not to mention the extensive use of adblockers). Newspapers will die but hey, it's cool, we can get all of our news from bloggers and state funded media outlets. Everything is going to be fine we're fucked for reliable news.
posted by MikeMc at 6:25 PM on January 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Both NPR and PBS predate the internet, both maintain an online presence in parallel with traditional broadcasting, and both have operated on a donations model (with limited corporate advertising) for years.

Why is this never raised as a possibility for newspapers?


1) It has been raised. See for example this post about a proposal from David Simon.

2) NPR and PBS receive grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is funded by the federal government. Currently, federal funding seems to provide about 15% of their budget. It will be a cold day in hell before a Sulzberger accepts this.

3) NPR and PBS are specially-chartered private non-profits. This prevents them from selling things, including, technically, advertising. Newspapers couldn't become non-profits and continue to sell papers. Passing legislation to change this is one of the things David Simon proposed (and that I support).
posted by gsteff at 6:26 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


unless they try to charge $20/month or more I'll subscribe to this

The Financial Times charges $29.95 a month. I have a hard time seeing how the New York Times could justify charging any less.
posted by blucevalo at 6:33 PM on January 17, 2010


Build the Wall, By David Simon [...]

Complete access to this article will soon be available for purchase. Subscribers will be able to access this article, and the rest of CJR’s magazine archive, for free. Select articles from the last 6 months will remain free for all visitors to CJR.org.


You velociraptor-sharp bastard, I should have known.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:33 PM on January 17, 2010


gsteff, I almost entirely agree with you...except for the Style section and John Tierney. Those are not news or, as I see it, anything of value. If and when they end up on metafilter's front page, they (in anectodal memory) quickly descend into ugliness...
However, If I have to pay to stay as informed as I am currently, which is not much, does that mean there's going to be some burgeoning income gap in current affair awareness?
i.e. only those with sufficient discretionary income will be able to keep on top of WSJ, NYTimes and their various favorite news sources? The best information is now going to come at a premium? That's a little terrifying.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:41 PM on January 17, 2010


You know, if this actually works, we'd be in the unique situation of having the readership in charge of the primary revenue stream. Instead of catering to the whims of advertisers and publishing cheap press release puff pieces, they'll be trying to write the content that the subscribers are interested in reading. That'd be pretty different.
posted by breath at 6:42 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


i.e. only those with sufficient discretionary income will be able to keep on top of WSJ, NYTimes and their various favorite news sources? The best information is now going to come at a premium?

This isn't any different from 20 years ago. The NYTimes on paper wasn't free to buy, but we still managed. If you had absolutely no money, you could read it at the library. I imagine there'll be some similar arrangement this time, too.

Overall, the best information always comes at a premium. There's just been this 15-year interregnum that's now coming to an end -- either voluntarily or by bankruptcy.
posted by bonaldi at 6:46 PM on January 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Financial Times charges $29.95 a month. I have a hard time seeing how the New York Times could justify charging any less.

That's how much it costs to get the paper edition of The Times delivered to my house every morning, not sure how they'd get away with charging that much for the electronic version.
posted by octothorpe at 6:47 PM on January 17, 2010


Instead of catering to the whims of advertisers

You have no idea how the New York Times works. I suppose whether or not a given tech or style story is a "cheap press release puff piece" is in the eye of the beholder, but every book and news story I've read about the New York Times suggests that there is an utterly impenetrable wall between advertising sales and editorial decisions. Statements like this make me feel like I'm living in a different world with a different set of facts from mainstream media critics, and make me fear for the day when, as newspapers decline, the number and populations of these parallel worlds increase.
posted by gsteff at 6:51 PM on January 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Gawd, this is ridiculous, like listening to the PirateBay board talking about how to save the music industry.

Let me shoot a couple ideas down right now: The reason why ISPs have no interest in working to monetize content is two-fold. First off, they already get it for free, each and every one of them. And for most people it's totally unfeasible to switch ISPs—they have functional geographic monopolies. They don't really need to compete against each other, and there's no real satellite internet option. That there's no competition is part of why we have such slow transfer rates compared to, well, everywhere else. Second off, let's not all clamor for ISPs to keep serious logs of what we're perusing. It's a pain for them, and it's about the exact opposite of net neutrality on our, the consumer, side.

The wallet seems like a great idea except that any micropayment runs up against two problems, that it's not secure and that it's not universal. You want the fattest target in the world? Collecting passive payments from folks heading to the NYTimes. And without that universal news money, why don't I just go to the Washington Post? For most news, it's roughly the same.

Micropayment tipping or fund drives? Yeah, see, NPR and PBS run on shoestrings compared to the NYTimes.
posted by klangklangston at 7:01 PM on January 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


People will pay through the nose for 200 channels of high definition flatulence but won't give up a dime to stay reasonably informed about the world around them. Then fuck them. The NY Times and any other source with a decent product should have started charging a long time ago.
posted by docpops at 7:04 PM on January 17, 2010 [18 favorites]


Overall, the best information always comes at a premium. There's just been this 15-year interregnum that's now coming to an end -- either voluntarily or by bankruptcy.

Perhaps I'm being overly mordant about this, but it seems like a this is really regressive and heralding something of a darker age. Those 15 years you speak of were absolutely critical for me, and everyone younger than me, in terms of setting up their news diets. I am willing to learn new tricks and jump through new hoops to get the same level of information (my RDA is high). But what about people that may not want to be bothered and will subsist on TMZ or gawker or whatever junky stuff is available in lieu of actually working to acquire more substantial information?
As much as i've been disappointed in NPR lately (ATC getting distinctly schlocky) there is a whole lot be said for providing quality information, without a premium, for the societal good. If this goes through, i'm paradoxically going to donate more to public radio.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:06 PM on January 17, 2010


Why have the big content producers sucked so hard at selling content-related micro-ads?

That's just what I was thinking.

If anybody had been looking over my shoulder a minute ago, they would've thought I was catching up on the humanitarian situation in Haiti - when all I really wanted was to buy some kind of packaged natural disaster that I could use upon my enemies.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:06 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look, the NY Times is not in the business of selling news to readers and hasn't been for decades. They sell readers to advertisers. And if they drive away readers, they're going to drive away advertisers and then they'll just fold.

If I'm going to pay money for journalism, I'd prefer not to pay someone who is going to take my money and give me lies in return.

I'd love to see reader sponsored journalism. In fact, I've given money to Talking Points Memo in the past, and gladly. Giving money to the NY Times is flushing money down the toilet, though. They're too big, and they serve too many entrenched interests.
posted by empath at 7:10 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've no problem giving up world/business news headlines and Op-Ed's, but I really don't want to lose access to Sam Sifton's Wednesday NYC restaurant reviews, or Mark Bittman columns, or the Frugal Traveler blog, or the random intriguing NYTimes Magazine pieces that show up in the Top 25 Most Emailed list.

The Times and its associated blogs have some of the highest-quality pieces on culture, health, and overall living and it would make me very sad to lose that daily enrichment.

Now that all my NYTimes Del.icio.us bookmarks are staring at the brink of obsoletion, maybe it's time to go back and save down those four Bittman '101' recipe articles.
posted by chalbe at 7:21 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh shit, I was half way down the hall to get a coffee when an idea struck me on how to save the news industry...make money on the supply side!

Given that the majority of what passes for journalism these days is simply re-edited press releases, all newspapers have to do is start charging the people who send in the press releases if they want them published!

Problem solved.


This is pretty much where the music industry has gone.
posted by nosila at 7:23 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Statements like this make me feel like I'm living in a different world with a different set of facts from mainstream media critics

It's strange how bad a job traditional journalists have done of explaining their ethics and why they count, and should be adhered to. People hold Jayson Blair against the Times, but don't seem to really grok the whole ethical structure that he violated.

Meantime, the PRs are having a field day. They're just eating up bloggers who don't have the first idea what they're up against, and often don't even realise that lines are there to be crossed. Consequently, if they notice at all, they blog saying how it's absolutely fine for them to take free Nexus Ones from Google because they won't let that affect their impartiality, and how it's fine for Microsoft to pay for their flights, or it's cool for Federated Media to pay for them to write "Conversational Media" (sponsored articles without the disclosure), and yes it's bad for Apple to terrorise their sites into silence over DRM in their headphones, but that's the game, what other way could it possibly be?

The state of online tech journalism is what's really terrifying about these putative replacements for newspapers. On the internet's home ground, the work that's being done is like a mastercourse in journalism gone wrong, and nobody's coming up with a way to fix it.

But what about people that may not want to be bothered and will subsist on TMZ or gawker or whatever junky stuff is available in lieu of actually working to acquire more substantial information?

That's always been the case, though. Tabloids always outsell quality papers; junky websites will have more readers than serious news sites. And you beg the question that these people would be reading the NYTimes website anyway. The Times is hoping that enough of the people who do actually read its website will be prepared to pay for it if required.

there is a whole lot be said for providing quality information, without a premium, for the societal good.
There definitely is. But there's a lot to be said for providing food, without a premium, for the societal good. And medicines. And computers. But that's not how it works, especially not in the US. If the sums don't add up -- and they don't -- the NYTimes simply can't do it.

Even here, land of the NHS, BBC News isn't really all that: a whole lot of the articles on its website are coverage of actual reporting done by the newspapers. If all our newspapers go, there's no way the BBC can pick up the slack and it's a much bigger dog than NPR.
posted by bonaldi at 7:26 PM on January 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


The New York Times is having to do this because of shitty business decisions it has made in the past, not because of the internet. The New York Times is one of the handful of news papers that should be helped by the internet because all those readers whose local papers have shut down should be flocking to the Times.

They have the best brand name in the biggest news market in the world and they expect us to believe they can't make money? Their actual problem is they got caught up in the bubble in the mid 00s and now have a shipload of debt they have to pay off.


On an unrelated note, I've always been confused by why there is such a large disparity between online advertising and print or television advertising. Eyeballs are eyeballs right? The only reason I can think of is that internet advertising allows the customer to get a much better measure of the effectiveness of the ad, and that the effectiveness is actually much lower than what the news papers and TV stations were claiming. The problem with this is that I find it hard to believe that corporations would be so stupid about something so fundamental to their bottom line. Anybody have any insights into the?
posted by afu at 7:27 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Micropayment tipping or fund drives? Yeah, see, NPR and PBS run on shoestrings compared to the NYTimes.

Sure. But, as I understand it, they do spend their tiny budgets on actual journalism, and not so much on rolling themselves into a vast katamari of mergers and acquisitions. NPR doesn't go buying up web startups for half a billion dollars. It focuses on running NPR.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:34 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


The state of online tech journalism is what's really terrifying about these putative replacements for newspapers. On the internet's home ground, the work that's being done is like a mastercourse in journalism gone wrong, and nobody's coming up with a way to fix it.

The state of online tech journalism is fucking incredible. Whenever I am interested in buying a new product, it takes me an hour at the most to figure out what the state of the art is, read multiple reviews of different products with technical details to what ever level of specificity I want, user reviews that will point out any common bugs, and easy to find price comparisons. Pre-internet I probably would have walked into sears and bought whatever the salesman told me to buy. At the most I would have been lucky to have read a consumer reports that happened to have reviewed the product I was looking at.
posted by afu at 7:34 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's too bad I liked the NY Times, but I get my news from multiple sources and will drop the NY Times if I have to pay. I can barely afford my internet connection much less buying the news.
posted by GratefulDean at 7:41 PM on January 17, 2010


The problem with this is that I find it hard to believe that corporations would be so stupid about something so fundamental to their bottom line. Anybody have any insights into the?

I believe the advertising truism it that half of all advertising money is wasted -- the problem is that they don't know which half.

Except on the internet, now they know which money is wasted.
posted by empath at 7:45 PM on January 17, 2010


I've always been confused by why there is such a large disparity between online advertising and print or television advertising. Eyeballs are eyeballs right?

The short answer is that trapped eyeballs are much better than casual eyeballs wandering past. If you're Vogue, or The Tonight Show, you can command high fees because you know exactly who your readers are, and how much money they have to spend, and advertisers want their eyeballs. Online, it's just whoever happens past -- they might only be there for one story and then never return. If these people can barely afford their internet connection, who wants to advertise to them?

What's more, there's much more competition online -- more inventory than anybody could possibly sell. That kills prices. There are only so minutes to sell during the superbowl, only so many inches on the front page of the NY Times. Google has infinite ad space.

The other thing is that online, advertisers do know how effective their ads are, and it terrifies them. In print, they can never really know, and ad agencies tell them they're incredibly effective because they work on commission. When they see how few people click online, they simply won't pay the fees they used to.

There's also the problem that the papers have lost their one-stop shop online. The real money-makers in advertising are classifieds: property, cars, jobs, stuff for sale. The prices they charge for these things would make you gasp. But online, it's buttons because of the competition from Monster, and eBay, and Craigslist, and ...

The state of online tech journalism is fucking incredible. Whenever I am interested in buying a new product
You're confusing journalism with shopping advice. Actual tech journalism is woeful. If I want a review of the Nexus One, I'm drowning in the things. If I want to know exactly what Google is really revealing to the US government, let alone the Chinese, I'm pretty much in the dark.
posted by bonaldi at 7:46 PM on January 17, 2010 [13 favorites]


The state of online tech journalism is fucking incredible. Whenever I am interested in buying a new product, it takes me an hour at the most to figure out what the state of the art is, read multiple reviews of different products with technical details to what ever level of specificity I want, user reviews that will point out any common bugs, and easy to find price comparisons.

I think the problem is that people think professional journalism is the be-all and end-all of having an informed populace. But it's not.
posted by empath at 7:50 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I want to know exactly what Google is really revealing to the US government, let alone the Chinese, I'm pretty much in the dark.

Does the Times have that?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:57 PM on January 17, 2010


Does the Times have that?
Nope, but that's kinda the point: I think tech journalism is a bellwether -- the traditional side of it is pretty much extinct, outside of a smattering in business pages -- but the new media is mostly an embarrassment where it should excel.

If everything else follows suit, there'll be nothing to keep the populace informed about, even if we've got thousands of fantastic ways of doing it.
posted by bonaldi at 8:03 PM on January 17, 2010


It would make me very sad to lose that daily enrichment.

If you value this so much, I don't see why you wouldn't want to pay the small fee required to read these things online or buy it in print.
posted by msbrauer at 8:05 PM on January 17, 2010


I for one look forward to the inevitable MetaTalk threads complaining about posts linking to a pay site.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:08 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cold Lurkey: The best information is now going to come at a premium? That's a little terrifying.

That's always been true. The best information is typically very expensive; you particularly see this in the financial world. I suspect that, over time, this idea of tiered information quality will become quite central to the Internet and the economy as a whole.

In the print world, newspapers were able to spread the cost of newsgathering across a whole lot of people, but fewer and fewer are willing to pay for the product they used to get. In essence, we were able to get a huge discount on good information through volume, but as everyone's pointing out, once newspapers go online, per-reader revenue plummets. These operations only work on an enormous scale, like with Google, or with small operations with virtually no overhead, like Craigslist. There just doesn't seem to be enough to support the very expensive news operations that it takes to run a good newspaper, unless they can scale up to absolutely immense size, which hasn't happened.

I'm really debating over subscribing to the NY Times. I want to pay for good news, but I'm not sure I really get it there. A lot of their stuff is just so bad. I guess they have to appeal to a broad audience to stay big, but it means that my subscription fees are actually buying about 5% of the total content they produce. So I'm not sure what I'll do.
posted by Malor at 8:14 PM on January 17, 2010


The traditional side of it is pretty much extinct, outside of a smattering in business pages

I'm not even sure what you mean by traditional tech journalism.
posted by empath at 8:14 PM on January 17, 2010


Perhaps if some day I get desperate enough...but for now, I'll find other news sources. I wonder what the possibility of profit through advertising of readers who would have come to the Times due to other newspapers throwing up dollar walls would have been.
posted by Atreides at 8:16 PM on January 17, 2010


You're confusing journalism with shopping advice. Actual tech journalism is woeful. If I want a review of the Nexus One, I'm drowning in the things. If I want to know exactly what Google is really revealing to the US government, let alone the Chinese, I'm pretty much in the dark.

Well it seems like you are saying Tech journalism is a subset of business journalism, and as far as I can tell business journalism has always been awful. I don't see how the internet makes anything worse.
posted by afu at 8:22 PM on January 17, 2010


If you value this so much, I don't see why you wouldn't want to pay the small fee required to read these things online or buy it in print.
posted by msbrauer at 11:05 PM on January 17


A lot of material I value is not found on the front page or world/US/business sections but on the associated blogs hosted by the Times (the content of which is not included in the print media). But of course we don't know which parts of the site will be pay-walled yet, and we also don't know whether they'll pay-wall their archived material.

If there was a way I could pay for access to only certain sections of the site I'd do that. Sort of like a new TimesSelect, but instead of Maureen Dowd and Tom "I was for the war before I was against it" Friedman being "Select" it'd be Sam Sifton and Mark Bittman.
posted by chalbe at 8:23 PM on January 17, 2010


To elaborate on a good idea published upthread, imagine a federal Content Protection Act which would do the following:

Each suitably defined internet user pays $50 per year on top of their standard ISP charge, with exceptions for students, low-income, what-have-you. Instantly, $500m is created.
Content providers can then sign up with a national directory of content providers.
At the end of each year, content providers are paid off from the big fund in proportion to their usage, in some suitably defined metric, such as number of visits per day.

It seems like a good idea, with the caveat that almost any metric one came up with would see $100m going to the pr0n industry and the pirate bay each year...
posted by kaibutsu at 8:30 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see the essential point Malor, of paying for financial world news in the hopes that it in turn will allow you to make some of your own money from it. But I would resist applying that model away from the financial sector. (or science journals, come to think of it)
For news qua news, what profit is there in it for the readers? Aside from the information given which was sponsored for them by the advertisers... it's stories, diversions, facts and entertainment.
I think when people say that they'd be willing to pay 1-10 dollars a month for the NYTimes online, they mean that they will pay for the often updated diversion of new things to read... maybe. like netflix. They are not paying specifically for information that they really need.

Oh bother, I don't want to pay for the privilege of being informed.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:35 PM on January 17, 2010


I'll pay for the Times. I've paid for it in the past, on and off, to land on my porch, and I'll pay for it online. Bonaldi has it, utopian dreams aside. The calculations indicate that the eyeballs the pay-based Times can deliver to advertisers are worth more than the free-and-imostly-ndifferent, and at the same time less-economically-powerful, eyeballs they can deliver for free. More targeted, more serious, more likely to read regularly and click through. That model is much more sustainable than any other model that's been developed by web-based ad marketers, even giving them 15 years to come up with a model.

People like to fault newspapers for failing at this new paradigm. I'd say the new paradigm has failed them. Those who preach that the targeted-ad-based model works on the internet have little idea what the cost of producing original news reporting is as compared to the (paltry) revenue generated by web ads. Bargain time is over.

If the Times does this, expect most other serious major newspapers to do it to. It will really change the way we read, share, and discuss news. News was never free. We've had a short-term, experimental phase in which it seemed to be; in the process of conducting this experiment, we lost a tremendous diversity of news voices, limited geographical markets to single sources, and drove thousands of good reporters out of work. A costly experiment. There's been much recent discussion in the world of newspapers about asserting the real value of the content - expect it to happen. Some percentage of people will still pay for high-quality, reliable news delivered on deadline, and they will get it. Their desirability as an ad market will likely support the continued existence of news organizations. Everyone else will have to be content with their leavings, getting exactly the quality of news they're willing to pay for.

NPR will be a nice fallback, since until its model changes, it by necessity accommodates a high percentage of free riders.

The long and short of it: newspapers tried to give the "information is free" utopianists their day. The dream wasn't realized, and the idea mostly doesn't work. Not for fresh, expensive, original, reliable, regular, timely news reporting. It turned out to be pie in the sky, at least for the daily market. Bloomberg Media, the Economist, the WSJ -- all great examples of how, if you deliver valuable and meaningful content that your audience wants, they'll pay a pretty significant fee.

If you won't miss them, they won't miss you.
posted by Miko at 9:40 PM on January 17, 2010 [20 favorites]


People will pay through the nose for 200 channels of high definition flatulence but won't give up a dime to stay reasonably informed about the world around them.

I would bet that 95% or more of Metafilter's user base falls into this category, whether paying for 200 channels of HD garbage or having high-speed internet to get the equivalent through torrents, etc.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:40 PM on January 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


For news qua news, what profit is there in it for the readers?

Reading the Times is kind of essential for me and the people I work with. We're in the cultural sector, doing public programming. We have to know what people are interested in, what's happening in the arts, what the zeitgeist is. The Times is place #1 you go to find this kind of thing out. When our organization appears in the Times, the boost it gives us is palpable and audible and echoes throughout our regional media. It's insane. It's incredibly powerful; a lot of literate, engaged, active people read it and act on its information.

We'll pay for it.
posted by Miko at 9:42 PM on January 17, 2010


No worries. Just quote the important pieces of any particular article and put it on a blog.

Don't quote paraphrase. Copyright doesn't protect ideas. There's already a site out there, newser that literally just summarizes stories from other papers. There's no reason they couldn't keep doing that.

Besides, so many newspaper articles are packed full of redundant text anyway.

Hell, here's newser's article about the times potentially going behind a paywall. It was on the front page.
People will pay through the nose for 200 channels of high definition flatulence but won't give up a dime to stay reasonably informed about the world around them. Then fuck them. The NY Times and any other source with a decent product should have started charging a long time ago.
They did. And they failed. I'm sure this time they'll keep their Op-eds free, though. (as the WSJ does)
posted by delmoi at 10:29 PM on January 17, 2010


Google has figured out how to make money with micro-ads.

Oh, jeez, that’s all the NYT has to do to stay afloat? Put a few AdSense ads at the bottom of the page? You need to start getting on the horn with newspapers across the country, pronto.

I really, really hope that the Times can pull this off. I’m absolutely terrified of a future where everyone gets their news from Rachel Maddow, Glenn Beck, and random shitty blogs.
posted by Garak at 10:39 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the problem is that people think professional journalism is the be-all and end-all of having an informed populace. But it's not.

Let me know when "teh citizen bloggers!" are gonna take on Carter-Ruck.

The best information is now going to come at a premium?

That's always been true.


Yep. Lexus-Nexus, all sorts of journal searches, hell I get access via work to various financial market-oriented commentaries that are light years ahead of anything you'll find in the general news world because my job subscribes to them.
posted by rodgerd at 10:44 PM on January 17, 2010


I won't pretend to have a lot of hope they get it right, but should they be clever enough to offer a range of packages for a range of price points and interest levels, I just might be willing to pay (again) for the Times.

If, for example, I could get the NY Times Magazine - and/or a "cream-only" package of the whole Sunday Times (magazine, Week In Review, Arts, Books, Food & Styles maybe for levity) - delivered in hardcopy to my door for less than thirty bucks a month w/full online access as my "free" bonus, I'd seriously consider subscribing.

This can't be too far from economical, because here in Canada you can add the Sunday Times to a Globe & Mail subscription for much less than thirty bucks a month. In essence, the online subscription would be the loss leader for the hardcopy magazine/Sunday package.

Smart money, though, is on them playing it dumb. One-size-fits-all, pay $X/month for your online subscription, Canadian readers are the same as Greenwich Village readers, everyone must receive local/regional sports news and two fat sections of car-related advertorial, not even a lousy tote bag.
posted by gompa at 10:48 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Miko: Reading the Times is kind of essential for me and the people I work with. We're in the cultural sector, doing public programming. We have to know what people are interested in, what's happening in the arts, what the zeitgeist is. The Times is place #1 you go to find this kind of thing out. When our organization appears in the Times, the boost it gives us is palpable and audible and echoes throughout our regional media. It's insane. It's incredibly powerful; a lot of literate, engaged, active people read it and act on its information.

We'll pay for it.


You might. But I bet at least 90% of their online readership was random people being linked in by google or discussion boards or such. They'll lose all of them, and with them, a lot of popularity and relevance.

I don't know if it's the right financial decision or not, but if they do this, they're going to fall off a lot of people's radar. And that might endanger their future. When something costs money to try (and obnoxious free trials that use credit card numbers, etc. don't count), people just don't try it a lot of the time, especially in the face of free competition.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:04 PM on January 17, 2010


I don't think the relevance of The New York Times is going to be diminshed by it falling out of random forums. If journalism is any good, it is going to be talked about. If the nyt can't manage that, it doesn't matter anymore anyway.

The popularity thing is pretty much what got them into this mess. "Don't worry about the income," said the new media soothsayers in dead-tree books with titles like Free, "popularity and relevance is the real currency online".

Yeah, but the bills are offline, and being popular with drive-by internet surfers isn't all it's cracked up to be.
posted by bonaldi at 11:25 PM on January 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'll pay for the Times. I've paid for it in the past, on and off, to land on my porch, and I'll pay for it online. Bonaldi has it, utopian dreams aside. The calculations indicate that the eyeballs the pay-based Times can deliver to advertisers are worth more than the free-and-imostly-ndifferent, and at the same time less-economically-powerful, eyeballs they can deliver for free. More targeted, more serious, more likely to read regularly and click through. That model is much more sustainable than any other model that's been developed by web-based ad marketers, even giving them 15 years to come up with a model.

People like to fault newspapers for failing at this new paradigm. I'd say the new paradigm has failed them. Those who preach that the targeted-ad-based model works on the internet have little idea what the cost of producing original news reporting is as compared to the (paltry) revenue generated by web ads. Bargain time is over.


I still don't see this huge difference between the online audience and the newspaper and TV audience. I am sure the New York Times can't get a good demographic picture of who it's online viewers are, and I would bet it is on average an affluent group. So why are the ad prices so low? Bargain time is over for the new paper industry maybe since they can't sell ads at fraudulently high rates?

And how is this new model any different from Times Select? The only companies that can make money from online sales are the ones that go on the corporate expense account, (i.e WSJ and FT). Anyway, the NYtimes is hurting because of a bad economy and stupid business decisions. It's the local papers that are getting killed by the internet, because all their readers are going to the Times.

Let me know when "teh citizen bloggers!" are gonna take on Carter-Ruck.

The "French anti-piracy organisation uses pirated font in own logo." is from a highly informed "citizen blogger" and his reporting on the issue is way above what I expect from the conventional media.
posted by afu at 11:28 PM on January 17, 2010


NYT Company holdings and chronology. Of interest:

March 18, 2005 – The company acquired About.com, a leading online provider of consumer information for $410 million. In 2005 the company reported financial revenues of $3.4 billion to its investors.

On August 25, 2006 – The company acquired Baseline StudioSystems, a leading online database and research service for information on the film and television industries for $35 million.

September 12, 2006 – The company announced its decision to sell its Broadcast Media Group, consisting of "nine network-affiliated television stations, their related Web sites and the digital operating center," in a press release.

About.com
ConsumerSearch.com
New England Sports Ventures (17%)
o Boston Red Sox
o Fenway Park
o New England Sports Network (NESN) (80%)

posted by kid ichorous at 11:29 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


So why are the ad prices so low? Bargain time is over for the new paper industry maybe since they can't sell ads at fraudulently high rates?

"Fraudulently"? The prices are what the markets will bear. In print, and in television, at certain times, they'll bear very high prices indeed. Online, they won't. It's pretty simple market economics. TV and US newspapers have monopolies. TV has monopoly over its particular bit of the spectrum; US papers have regional monopolies. You want to advertise to their slice of the readership/audience? You pay what they ask.

Online the competition is huge, and there are no monopolies, no reader lock-in. The prices tumble because whatever you try to charge, there's someone else who'll accept less and can offer you pretty much the same demographic. Google's ad rates are pitifully low compared to the cost of even a tiny, shitty print ad, but they deliver interested people to your website remarkably well.

The "French anti-piracy organisation uses pirated font in own logo." is from a highly informed "citizen blogger" and his reporting on the issue is way above what I expect from the conventional media.

I liked that piece too (though note that it relies in more than one place on conventional media reporting), but if you think it compares to exposing Trafigura and taking on Carter-Ruck, you're high.
posted by bonaldi at 11:48 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Fraudulently"? The prices are what the markets will bear.

Fraudulent probably wasn't the best word. What I meant was that I am skeptical that advertising was priced correctly in terms of it's effectiveness in the pre-internet era.

Online the competition is huge, and there are no monopolies, no reader lock-in. The prices tumble because whatever you try to charge, there's someone else who'll accept less and can offer you pretty much the same demographic.


Who can offer the same demographic as the NY times for a cheaper price?

I liked that piece too (though note that it relies in more than one place on conventional media reporting), but if you think it compares to exposing Trafigura and taking on Carter-Ruck, you're high.

I don't know, the Guardian was originally stopped from reporting by Carter-Rucks, and unconventional online publicity of the story through blogs and twitter was undeniably important in publicizing the case. I don't think it is a clear cut case of the impotence of bloggers at all.
posted by afu at 12:06 AM on January 18, 2010


Who can offer the same demographic as the NY times for a cheaper price?
The question's really who can offer the same demographic as the NY Times website for a cheaper price, and the answer is "Google", and every other newspaper site. People who're on the web are using Google, and Google charges way less.

In print, the NY Times gets the New York market, and you'd be daft to advertise in the Washington Post if it was New Yorkers you wanted to reach. Online, not only are there are better ways to reach New Yorkers, there are also better ways (or substitutes at least) to reach the educated and informed types that will visit the NYT's site. In print, they can sell you New York; online they can offer the same set of drive-by schmoes as everybody else.
posted by bonaldi at 12:11 AM on January 18, 2010


People will pay through the nose for 200 channels of high definition flatulence

Maybe the NY Times could be the 201st channel? Sell it as part of a cable package.
posted by pracowity at 12:33 AM on January 18, 2010


"Oh, jeez, that’s all the NYT has to do to stay afloat? Put a few AdSense ads at the bottom of the page? You need to start getting on the horn with newspapers across the country, pronto."

Go to almost any major newspaper site (or their media groups) and imagine you have $1000 to spend on an experimental ad campaign and want to get it up and running quickly and with no fuss. Basically, they don't want your money. They want people with big ad budgets to talk to their sales teams and follow a convoluted procedure, as if there's an awful lot of expertise and creativity involved in slapping standard banners into generic page layouts.

Now go to Google and note how easy it is to place ads, and how cheap the self-service system must be to run in comparison.
posted by malevolent at 1:10 AM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


malevolent: A lot of those sites use adsense as well. It's not really worthwhile to deal with trying to sell adds yourself unless you're going to be making extra profit. The money you make needs to cover the money you lose not slapping on Adsense, plus the money to pay whoever did all the work in putting on the custom ads.
posted by delmoi at 1:18 AM on January 18, 2010


afu: I don't know, the Guardian was originally stopped from reporting by Carter-Rucks, and unconventional online publicity of the story through blogs and twitter was undeniably important in publicizing the case. I don't think it is a clear cut case of the impotence of bloggers at all.

Ah, yes, the online campaign started by the editor of the Guardian after his newspaper had already been required to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees. Don't see your average citizen blogger ponying up that kind of money any time soon –particluarly when we're talking about situations involving free speech and injunctions, because the whole reason you need the money in the first place is that someone's attempting to prevent you from shouting it from the rooftops, and you need to fight them through the courts.
posted by Len at 1:35 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plus, the ultimate downfall of the Trafigura/Carter-Ruck clusterfuck was not the online campaign, but the way that CR attempted to abrogate Parliamentary privilege and the 1689 Bill of Rights.
posted by Len at 1:42 AM on January 18, 2010


tech reporting is awful

tech reporting is awful you say ? what about this guy ?

the man is a beacon of journalistic integrity.

They should have hierarchy of nyt's that progessively tell you the truth the more you pay.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:43 AM on January 18, 2010


Google should buy the Times.
posted by pracowity at 4:33 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Though I'm against the pay route on balance, I think it's clearly a question of balancing positives and negatives, and I've never begun to understand the unthinking, implacable position that obviously this is a ridiculous attempt to hold back the Tide of History.

This is a calculation, and the responses of the people in this thread who scoff at the notion will be well accounted for in the NYT's calculation, I assure you, along with the far larger number of people who are just indifferent and will fail to transition to paying due to inertia. You mock the NYT for risking "leaving the global conversation" without considering that closing down (or starting to produce content as poor and unremarkable as that on 99.9% of non-professional sources) is another excellent way to leave the global conversation.

We'll see. A secret part of me won't be all that concerned if the conversation around New York Times articles no longer includes those sensitive flowers on Metafilter and elsewhere who complain that the case of Judith Miller has ruined their faith in the entire history of all professional journalism ever.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:46 AM on January 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Talkingpointmemo discovered, investigated and reported on the us attorney firings. Gawker, tmz and other sites seem to have no trouble making money deploying armies of staff to follow celebrities. In fact new business models based on audience and advertising are thriving. There are a number of news sites that have spring up recently that pay bloggers for views.
posted by humanfont at 6:15 AM on January 18, 2010


There was an episode of The Office a few weeks ago where they were reading an article in the WSJ about their company, and it cut off because of the paywall. So in the episode, they paid the few bucks needed to read the rest of the article.

In the real world, reading the rest of that article requires signing up for a subscription for at least $100. Kind of depressing.
posted by smackfu at 6:41 AM on January 18, 2010


NY Times always seems to be borrowing material from blogs and other sources. They also use content from the AP wires. I'll just look for AP stories.
posted by anniecat at 6:58 AM on January 18, 2010


You might. But I bet at least 90% of their online readership was random people being linked in by google or discussion boards or such. They'll lose all of them, and with them, a lot of popularity and relevance.


The argument is that 90% of their readership will use this content in some important way. That doesn't seem to be the case now. The 90% "random people" aren't doing anything to support the newspaper - not buying the content, and not buying anything in the ads. They're casual users, at best - the equivalent to the person who picks up the paper that someone who paid for it left on the seat of the bus after they were done with it.

I don't know if it's the right financial decision or not, but if they do this, they're going to fall off a lot of people's radar. And that might endanger their future.

The New York Times isn't going to fall of everybody's radar. It'll become instead something that people who need and use its information prioritize and pay for. As a result, they'll know stuff other people don't know and gain an advantage in whatever enterprises they use this information in. People in politics will subscribe. People in international aid or business will subscribe. People in arts and culture, food and entertainment, and the businesses that are built around them will subscribe. People who just want to be very culturally literate, who want to digest in what is probably the most efficient possible package the most significant news of the day, will subscribe.

If others don't, were they ever delivering value to the newspaper anyway? Were they holding up their end of the relationship? Will they be missed?
posted by Miko at 10:18 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am going to guess that this ends up being little more than a marketing ploy; creating a paywall then immediately pulling it when it turns out people would rather bitch about how shitty it is to have to pay for the times than you know, open up the wallet and pay for the times.

Bonus: at what point in history did 100% of the people who read newspapers actually buy them themselves? Because I'm pretty sure a lot of business is from diners, cafes, doctor's offices, libraries, and etc. Saying that "only 20%" would actually pay is failing to not only adapt to the times, but also to realistically assess the past and present.

Exactly the kind of fallacious thinking I look for in my journalism.
posted by shownomercy at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2010


NY Times is one of very few new sites I would pay for access to. Probably the LA Times, Boston, WSJ...maybe a few others. Because I will pay for quality product.

All those wonderful free news sites people carry on about generally suck. A lot of them (I'm looking at you, ABCNews.com) are just about unreadable because of a total lack of copyediting. They seem to be written by high school students - and not even particularly bright high school students. They also are heavy on the celebrity and tabloid style news, and light on anything of substance. The NY Times is still written by and for people with actual functioning brains. I will pay for that. I'll also pay for a subscription for my 70 year old mother, who just discovered she can read the NY Times online. (This whole new-fangled internet thingy is still rather amazing to her. lol!)
posted by fairywench at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


>>The Financial Times charges $29.95 a month. I have a hard time seeing how the New York Times could justify charging any less.

>That's how much it costs to get the paper edition of The Times delivered to my house every morning,


It would be great if online discussion in 2020 began, "Turn to page A-32 of your Afternoon Edition of the NY Times for today's discussion on Sarah Palin."
posted by yeti at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2010


Bonus: at what point in history did 100% of the people who read newspapers actually buy them themselves? Because I'm pretty sure a lot of business is from diners, cafes, doctor's offices, libraries, and etc. Saying that "only 20%" would actually pay is failing to not only adapt to the times, but also to realistically assess the past and present.

But do you actually think the company hasn't done this math? Do you think they aren't familiar with their own past and present? They certainly have and they certainly are. There has certainly always been a free rider problem with newspapers, and some of the papers circulated more than once, though never the majority of copies. The thing was that the revenue model actually supported the paper's enterprise, regardless of the ultimate number of readers. The Times doesn't need more and more and more readers to carry on; that kind of thinking really overestimates the value of an individual reader. It could have very few readers, if it had a revenue stream sufficient to cover their operating expenses.

I think this is what people are missing when they focus on how the Times would become less "popular." It doesn't need to be popular; it needs to be stable. Those who think news should be free on the internet have utterly failed to produce a funding model that is capable of sustaining the activities of an international daily newspaper with staff members dedicated to original reporting. If you think this is untrue, please present your viable alternative funding model for print reporting. Simple number-of-eyeballs accounting has not delivered the goods.

There is a concern I have in that the fourth estate function of the newspaper is somewhat weakened in a tightly controlled pay model. The news sources that will remain free will be of lower quality than what's available for pay. That puts people with fewer resources at a news disadvantage. However, this also replicates past conditions. I suspect that if a lot of major papers do this (and if the Times does, several others will too), then we'd replicate the system of the past - if you can't afford to buy a subscription yourself, then your local library (or school or college) will make it available to you. Secondary reporting will, of course, pick up on and re-report major-paper reporting, but they'll be at a crucial disadvantage: that'll take a little bit of time, especially if they don't intend to completely plagiarize. Those who vaunt the internet's news-dissemination abilities always note that the fastest draw is the highest value to a reader. If you want to wait in the dark while the Times breaks a new story for someone else to summarize it, you can; but if you want (or need) to know what they've discovered immediately, you then would want to be a subscriber yourself.

One great advantage to print newspapers is that you don't have to subscribe - you can buy when you want. If you don't read the paper every day, you can still just pick one up to read about last night's game or what have you. It would be interesting if you could access single editions for a really low fee this way, or maybe have a credit/debit system that allowed you to access, say, 20 editions over a year or six months.
posted by Miko at 7:43 PM on January 18, 2010


It'll become instead something that people who need and use its information prioritize and pay for. As a result, they'll know stuff other people don't know and gain an advantage in whatever enterprises they use this information in.

You must be joking, right?
posted by empath at 7:57 PM on January 18, 2010


Not at all. It's certainly true in my field, which is why I say I'd pay for it.
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on January 18, 2010


"The state of online tech journalism is fucking incredible. Whenever I am interested in buying a new product, it takes me an hour at the most to figure out what the state of the art is, read multiple reviews of different products with technical details to what ever level of specificity I want, user reviews that will point out any common bugs, and easy to find price comparisons."

Consumer reviews are a very small part of journalism in any given field. In music journalism, this is rampant and impoverishes cultural discourse.


I wrote a lot of papers in j-school comparing what I called "candy" journalism with "medicinal" journalism—there are some stories that are entertaining or even vaguely nourishing, and there are stories that it's healthy for the public to know. But getting people to take their medicine is hard, especially when it's presented as medicine. And the public has been so snowed by the surfeit of news that they just don't really value news that's good for them anymore, outside of small sub-sets of the public. I never figured out a way to solve this, and, well, it feels a little bit good realizing that no one else has either.
posted by klangklangston at 8:37 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You must be joking, right?

You've never been to school, university, a training course, bought a book? Because you just, like, know it all?
posted by rodgerd at 9:51 PM on January 18, 2010


If the NYT forces us to pay to access its website, how will I find enormous photosets of half-naked hipsters at the trendiest concerts in NYC?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:07 PM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorite part of the Times is the crosswords - I already pay for the daily crosswords app for the iPhone (a service which comes with the ability to read the day's paper as well) and can't see any reason why I would pay more to read the paper itself, even if the app discontinued that particular function.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:22 AM on January 19, 2010


One difference between NYT on one hand and FT & WSJ on the other is that finance/banking folks I know get their financial news (via FT &WSJ, electronic or printed) at work, paid for by work -- and so are more insensitive to the cost. NYT subscribers are probably more heavily skewed to home readers, but I am guessing at that.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:11 AM on January 19, 2010


They just announce the details of the plan that starts next year:

The New York Times Company announced this morning that it will be introducing a paid, metered model for NYTimes.com at the beginning of 2011.

The publisher will offer users free access to an unspecified set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number.

posted by octothorpe at 6:47 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess that's the end of NYTimes links for Metafilter.
posted by smackfu at 6:48 AM on January 20, 2010


I dunno, you get some number of free views a month. Better than a full pay wall.
posted by Mid at 7:00 AM on January 20, 2010


It's hard to imagine that some workaround won't emerge, as it did during the Times Select era. But I still this is a smart move and hope it works, and hope to see the Washington Post, LA Times, and others who can command an audience desirable to advertisers to make a similar transition.
posted by Miko at 7:30 AM on January 20, 2010


I don't have a problem with this pay as you go plan. Tell me why I should be upset with a plan to reimburse professionals for their services and effort. If a broadway play, a concert, a university lecture, a best-selling book, your architect's plans, a session with your psychologist - whatever entertainment or service you currently have to pay for out in your world - was streamed on-line, do you think it should be free just because it's on the internet? Would you give away the fruit of your work for free? Anyplace else, we would call that making a donation to charity but apparently all intellectual content is de facto gratis when put up on the web. Well, the free internet rides are over kids. The media circus wants us to buy tickets.
posted by birdwatcher at 8:03 AM on January 20, 2010


Well, the free internet rides are over kids. The media circus wants us to buy tickets.

I don't have a problem with it personally, I still get a newspaper delivered to my front stoop every morning so obviously I don't have an issue with paying for content. My worry is that this just won't work for the Times in terms of generating enough revenue to survive. The fact that they're saying, "we're charging for services now" doesn't automatically generate that revenue. It people refuse to pay, the revenue just won't be there. The Times needs to convince enough people that their news is better than other free news and worth paying extra for; I'm not convinced that's going to happen. Time will tell.
posted by octothorpe at 8:21 AM on January 20, 2010


Anyplace else, we would call that making a donation to charity but apparently all intellectual content is de facto gratis when put up on the web.

It's ad supported, which isn't free.
posted by smackfu at 8:27 AM on January 20, 2010


Rather, they're getting paid for it even if the end-user doesn't pay in money (just eyeballs), so cries of charity are silly.
posted by smackfu at 8:34 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Times needs to convince enough people that their news is better than other free news and worth paying extra for; I'm not convinced that's going to happen

An awful, awful lot depends on what the other free news is like. If nobody else puts up a pay wall, it's got a low chance of working. If everybody else does, then you're either going to read shit news, or choose a daily news site.

This is why Murdoch has been making so much noise about paysites for so long -- to alert other proprietors that the time has come.
posted by bonaldi at 8:47 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


From Bill Keller in the above linked article:
“It underscores the value of what we do — trustworthy, aggressively reported professional journalism, which is an increasingly rare and precious thing,” Mr. Keller said. “And it gives us a second way to sustain that hard, expensive work, in addition to our healthy advertising revenue

It will interesting be to see exactly what dollar amount they attach to that rare and precious thing.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2010


It's ad supported, which isn't free.

The printed edition has ads. Why isn't that given away?

This line of thinking implies that revenue from the side-bar ads is sufficient for a newspaper to recover its costs. Does knowing that make you feel less like paying for the content? Print media need new revenue sources to replace their old and flawed business plans? Subscriptions and ads in any form can not be the only sources of revenue either. Expect other unpopular fees and income collection methods.
posted by birdwatcher at 8:59 AM on January 20, 2010


Here's the NY Times article on it.
But executives of The New York Times Company said they could not yet answer fundamental questions about the plan, like how much it would cost or what the limit would be on free reading
posted by smackfu at 9:48 AM on January 20, 2010


. My worry is that this just won't work for the Times in terms of generating enough revenue to survive.

You've got to think like an advertiser. The circulation revenue is only a fraction of operating expenses. It's the ad revenue that makes the financial model of a newspaper run in the black. Web ad revenue for free-access sites is valued at very, very low rates as compared to print ads. Newspapers can't make enough off web ads to sustain the operational costs.

How can you make those low-value web ads more valuable? By showing that you have a very high click-through rate, and/or that your demographic and the advertiser's target market match perfectly, and that your demographic is actually likely to use or buy the products or services you're advertising. The number of eyes may go down, but the value of each eye goes way, way up. A casual reader bouncing onto your site from a link on MetaFilter or Huffington Post is worth much less to advertisers than an intentional reader who has paid money for the product and signed up to receive the content. That reader has indicated regular, serious, and attentive interest in the content and is thus a lot likelier to be responsive to the advertising, to see it more regularly, and to be the kind of person who the advertiser wants to reach.

Look at magazines. Look at those tiny tiny little ads in The New Yorker. Do you know how much they cost? They're outrageous, some of the most lucrative advertising space there is. It's not because of the number of eyes that see the ads. It's because The New Yorker, with a $60 subscription price, is reaching an economically desirable demographic for certain kinds of advertisers, and they'll pay a premium to be in front of those eyes. The New Yorker, incidentally, makes some of its content available for free online, but some is available only to subscribers. I expect that advertising on the subscriber-only pages goes for a higher rate than advertising on the free-content pages.
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on January 20, 2010


The New Yorker, with a $60 subscription price

[pedantry] I paid $45 for my subscription, not $60. [/oh yes, those $15 did indeed make all the difference.]
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:33 AM on January 20, 2010


Here's how they ended what they told their employees (who haven't yet been told about their own access):

The creation of a metered model for NYTimes.com is part of a long
evolution to expand our presence on the Web and exploit new mobile and
social networking vehicles. We are able to take this step today because of
the scale and success that we have developed over the past 15 years.
NYTimes.com is now widely recognized as the gold standard in online news
and information. This decision is a natural next step and we hope that you
will be as excited as we are to take on this new opportunity.

To read the press release go to www.nytco.com .

Arthur and Janet

posted by Obscure Reference at 11:48 AM on January 20, 2010


New Yorker - BEST DEAL! 141 issues (three years) for just $99.95
94 issues (two years) for $69.95
47 issues (one year) for $39.95
posted by Miko at 8:34 PM on January 20, 2010


Wouldn't it be a great preliminary experiment if they cleaved their press release about metered online reading in half, and asked readers to pony up to read the rest of it?

That would give them a real good idea of who was really there to read the whole of the articles and would pay for the priviledge n'est pas?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:10 PM on January 20, 2010


Well, since it's a press release, you would be able to read the information elsewhere.
posted by Miko at 9:12 PM on January 20, 2010




I'm going to start a blog called linkstonewyorktimesstories.com.

The ad revenue will be obscene.
posted by box at 8:15 AM on January 23, 2010


Box, Matthew Yglesias says (in my previous link): "we can assume that there’s some technological ability to blackball a site that the NYT deems to be behaving in an abusive way."
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:54 AM on January 23, 2010


What? Man, I wish I'd read that article before I quit my job.
posted by box at 11:14 AM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


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