The NYT’s paid content plan

The New York Times has announced its paid content plan. It will offer readers free access to an unspecified number of articles each month and they will have to pay after that. This is an interesting move and model but the devil is the details yet to come. Let’s consider some extremes:

  • Worst case scenario: they have a low number of articles each month (less than 30) and each time you want to access any article you need to be logged on to the relevant website. Unless you do this from one device this is going to be a big pain. It will, however, play into aggregators hands who will have a role in sorting out which of the NYT’s content is ‘click worthy’ and worth spending your ‘free’ credits on.
  • Best case scenario: the NYT solves some key technology characteristics and somehow makes it easy for you to click on articles without much login difficulty. It also allows you to keep track of your quota over the month. Finally, it differentiates its own articles in terms of what counts as a read and click versus what doesn’t (e.g., breaking news versus opinion pieces).

The pricing plan is not a bad one as it clearly will encourage those using the NYT’s like a daily newspaper to subscribe while occasional readers can get some but not total access. So the basic pricing economics seems sound. The issue, as with all of these things, is how easy will it be to use. There is reason to be optimistic. The NYT could have implemented the worst case scenario today. Instead, it is waiting until 2011.

4 thoughts on “The NYT’s paid content plan”

  1. Yes, looks like it could work.
    It’s strange though that they are waiting till 2011 to implement it. The game will change (probably several times) between now and then.
    My only guess is that the NYT is trailing this model  in the hope that others climb on and it becomes an industry standard.
    Murdoch is the one to watch.


  2. I’m surprised about the wait until 2011 because I would have thought that they’d want to bundle some deals with the Apple thingy at launch. But maybe they’ll introduce an earlier deal for NYT reader (as folks who use that are all frequent users.)
    The apparent desire to make the process ‘seamless’ is great news, although we’ll see if it can be done or not. The current login regime is hardly onerous.


  3. The newspaper industry’s woes are not a technical problem in search of an answer. They’re a death spiral that provokes a lot of activity.

    Printed papers are losing readers, especially to the Internet. Classifieds ads are also losing suppliers, also to the Internet. Printed display ads – as is increasingly apparent to ad buyers and their clients – are not good at driving sales of goods and services, and fewer readers only makes the problem worse.

    Online, unpaid content does not make enough money, leaving newspapers unable to cover their costs and making their online operations unprofitable. Paid content will lose them too many viewers, leaving them unable to cover their costs and making their online operations unprofitable, again.

    This is the cycle newspapers have been in since the late 1990s. They will keep flicking the online switch back and forth between “paid” and “unpaid” all the way down, until their print editions become unprofitable.

    There is no “right” answer. There has never been one – not since the first moment it became apparent that the Internet would remove the rents available to firms with printing presses and physical distribution networks.


  4. DWG – I’m not sure about that.
    Newspapers till have a lot of content that people want. As the classified model fell they need to find an other way of getting people to pay. It’s not as if they have a product people no longer want.
    The game isn’t over – there will be many models tried and chances are one might succeed. Fun to watch.


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