Friday, March 18, 2011
We at the blog often link to stories that we find in The New York Times. Why? Because it's the paper of record, because it's comprehensive and reliable, and most of all, because it's free. Well, it was free. As the Old Grey Lady announced today, the Times now will allow non-subscribers to read twenty stories a month. After that, if you want to continue to access the Times's content, you have to pay $15/month to become a "digital subscriber."
Why is the Times doing this when, as the Times's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. acknowledged, it has long been almost an article of faith that "people would not pay for the content they accessed via the Web"? It appears that financial pressures are forcing the Times to find new ways to generate revenue. As the Times reports:
“This is practically a do-or-die year,” said Ken Doctor, an analyst who studies the economics of the newspaper business. “The financial pressures on newspapers is steady or increasing. They’re in an industry that is still receding. Newspapers are trying to pay down their debt, but they have fewer resources to do it.”
The debate consuming the newspaper business now centers on the question that The Times hopes to answer: Can you reverse 15 years of consumer behavior and build a business around online subscriptions?
Not all visits to the Times's website will count towards the monthly twenty-visit limit. If you get to a Times story via a search engine or a social networking site, you get a free pass, but only five free passes a day are allowed. The Times, in an odd lapse in its comprehensive coverage, does not mention whether or not clicking on a link to the Times posted on the ContractsProf Blog counts.
Of course, if you are not inclined to keep a pad next to your computer so that you can keep track of your monthly visits, you can always just subscribe to the newspaper, which entitles you to unlimited access to the website. Otherwise, the $15/month fee is not too pricey. It's the cost of two lunches at McDonald's. How do we arrive at that figure? Simple. We read it in The New York Times.