It’s been rumored for quite a while, but now the New York Times has gone and done it. It said in a statement this morning that it has a “new model” for its web site that means readers will have to pay – starting this time next year.
It calls this the “metered model” – meaning that you have free access of a certain number of articles until you hit the barrier then you’ll have to pay for it.
The publisher says: “This will enable NYTimes.com to create a second revenue stream and preserve its robust advertising business”. The publisher waxes even more lyrical because this year the newspaper is creating a “frictionless experience across multiple platforms”. Some friction is needed, especially where money is concerned, because readers will just slide away otherwise.
There’s only been a couple of attempts to charge for content – notably the Wall Street Journal – that was a success. English newspaper the Financial Times tried to do that too, but with very limited success.
And of course News International is threatening to do the very same across many of its worldwide titles.
The problem is the publishers don’t really get the internet yet but they know it’s hurting them. More and more people read their news on the internet and less and less want to buy newspapers. Publishers have to judge and juggle just how they manage to pull in their traditionally buoyant advertising revenue while at the same time pay for the cost of print and distribution.
It’s a broken model. As even more people pile into the internet, if they find they have to pay for content they’ll just look for their news somewhere else.
The CEO of the New York Times Company said: “This process of rethinking our business model has also been by our desire to achieve additional revenue diversity that will make us less susceptible to the inevitable economic cycles.” Those are fine words, but they may well prove to butter no parsnips.