Friday, January 14, 2005

NY Times Brass Considers Fees for Web Readers: Are We Really Going to See This Happen?

Reuters reported on the new BusinesWeek cover story covering The New York Times' increasingly diversified publishing empire, which includes rumblings from Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. that he's not happy with a new generation of readers being trained that quality information is free. Some have taken this to mean that there's likely some pressure to get the Times to adopt an online subscription model, but somehow I find that rather unlikely in the short run. With the Wall Street Journal pushing experiments in the opposite direction, premium sites like the Times are likely to remain status quo with their revenue models until they see some reason to choke off the surging ad revenues fed by access via search engines. I assume that at some point we may see online news providers adapt variations on a two-tier model, based not on all-or-none access or delayed access but on feature access, with value-add features such as indexing,integrated reference materials and locally archived versions that can be easily downloaded onto portable devices and printed commanding a premium. This will become more important as general newspapers compete more directly over time with individual sources of news such as weblogs and other news compilers such as news search engines who will begin to excel at feature services. The real premium battle is not going to be won by being between these two extremes of the news business but rather by excelling at these polar opposites with effective monetization strategies. People are always willing to pay for content in the right contexts; it's just a matter of coming up with the right packaging.
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