“All the News That’s Fit to Print”. That’s been the slogan on the masthead of The New York Times since its founding. But these days, the Times’ business model is struggling to cope with technology. A majority of its readers are migrating to online news and the advertisers are following. In 2005, the Times’ still got 90% of its revenue from newspapering (though that’s clearly not the case these days). Since then, the newspaper has been investing heavily in upgrading its content, hiring more reporters, columnists and editors, but its publishers continue to face a quandary. The business model that says to invest in journalism, the print edition, isn’t growing. The model that is growing, the internet, isn’t producing enough revenue yet. So to shore up its ledger sheet, the Times began charging readers for access to its website on March 28 of this year.
Publisher Arthur Sulzberger told readers in a letter, “Today marks a significant transition for The New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions. It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in the Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform.” Sulzberger went on to say the change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the website’s content and on mobile applications.
On NYTimes.com, readers can view 20 articles each month for free, including slide shows, videos and features. After that, it’s $15 a month for full access to the site as well as Smartphone apps. For $35 a month, readers get full access on all platforms. Home delivery subscribers get all access at no charge.
If you’re reaching the Times’ website through search, blogs and social media such as Facebook, those articles will be free. In addition, the home page at NYTimes.com and section fronts will be free to browse for all. That’s the same system the Wall Street Journal, the largest pay site, also uses.
No doubt, as more newspapers struggle with their business models, publishers and editors are watching to see readers’ reaction to the Times’ fee plan. The Wall Street Journal has convinced more than a million people to pay for content from its site and that number is growing. But how much will it grow? The answer to that will go a long way in determining not only the future of many major newspapers but also whether traditional, reporting-heavy journalism has a place in the digital era of news. Will you pay for online news? How much?