Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New York Times Now Free

The New York Times is now free:

Effective Sept. 19, we are ending TimesSelect. All of our online readers will now be able to read Times columnists, access our archives back to 1987 and enjoy many other TimesSelect features that have been added over the last two years – free.
About time.

As a blogger, I am so glad not to have to worry about converting NY Times links to permalinks or ever having to use this site again.

And I never understood why the content in the archive had no images or graphs. I thought at first it was because they got rid of them after a while to save space, but that was obiviously not the case as they were still accessible via the permalink. I have no idea why they did that or why they would charge for that inferior version.

I never thought the idea of charging for columnists and 2 week old content made any sense. I blame Lexis Nexis for giving the NY Times the crazy idea that you should be charging for your fishwrap.

While I am glad that the content is free, I am not convinced that a completely advertising driven model is the way to go for online newspapers. Currently, one one print reader is worth ten online and advertising rates online are much less than those in print. This might change in time, but I find that I am more likely to glance at an ad in a paper than I am to look at one online. And the big moneymaker for print newspapers are the classifieds, which, thanks to Craigslist, have absolutely no revenue generating value online for newspapers.

To support their current reporting staff, the New York Times might still need some sort of subscription system. If you look at news on television, the network and local news are both completely advertising supported, but the cable news channels get about 1/2 of their revenue from cable subscriptions.

One idea that I have floated before is to sell a subscription for access to all online newspapers and then split the revenues between them based on page views. I am willing to pay a flat fee to access any article in the US that I want to view (and help to pay for the cost of additional reporters and quality reporting), but I have a hard time justifying one for the NY Times, one for the Wall Street Journal (which looks to be going free as well sometime soon) and one for The Economist (which has also released all its articles for free recently) and one for the Financial Times.

Another option for them would be to charge for early access to content. Charge to allow people to view articles at 9 PM rather than 6 AM the next day or Wednesday rather than Sunday for the NY Times Magazine content. This scheme could also be extended to charge for current day's content. If you want to view it for free you have to wait until it is one day old. Those that need access to the news as it breaks will have to pay, while those who can wait will get it for free. This is a similar scheme to books where they are first sold in an expensive hardcover edition and than later released in a cheaper paperback edition.

But for now I am a happy NY Times reader and blogger.

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