The New York Times will now charge money for readers to access its online version. That's a big leap of faith for any online news provider.
Will it work?
This blogger says no. Here are three simple reasons why:
1) Free - The New York Times and pretty much every other competitor has already spoiled us rotten. Content is free. We like it free. And, with so many other news providers to choose from, free trumps anything else these days.
2) Where's the unique value? Sure, The Times might have exceptional writers and does clearly offer some interesting stories and exposes. But, most of what the online version offers is also generic, national/international news and trends. These stories are often covered similarly by dozens of other news and content providers. Unless this new outlet can bring its current readers more compelling content that they can't get elsewhere, the masses simply won't pull out their credit cards and subscribe.
As I was thinking about this post, my brother made a good point yesterday on this topic. He believes that there are specific sections of the paper (like the Arts and Book Review) which fall into the exception to this rule category. That's because the Book Review Section has a following based on the distinctive types of reviews it offers. Many New York Times readers buy the paper simply to read this section because the content is hard to find elsewhere. Some audiences might subscribe simply because of that. I agree with his viewpoint. But, the amount of loyal followers here, doesn't add up to a lot.
3) Duplication - I have a regular print subscription to the paper. And, I read it online (when I am traveling). Would I buy an online subscription, thereby duplicating my subscription (and adding to my cost). Probably. But, that's because I'm in a related news business and truly need to read it. My feeling (though) is that the general universe who already pay for the print version certainly won't feel the same need and thus will not fork over the money, thereby paying double for both versions. That means this media company needs to pull in an entirely new audience of readers to pay for the online version. I'm highly skeptical that any such audience exists for this sophisticated newspaper.
The New York Times is a great news outlet and I really enjoy reading its online version. But free is what sells now (uh...slight humor). Absent of that, my belief is that the changed model will fail.