The rumour was published here previously
; today the New York Times
threw in the towel on trying to charge premium prices for online access to its content. According to a story
, the Times
dropped its paid online subscription program TimesSelect "effectively admitting its two-year attempt to charge its Web site users to access premium content and archives had failed."
TimesSelect has been charging US$49.95 per year ($7.95 a month) for access to its columnists and the newspaper’s archives. The service at its peak drew an estimated 227,000 paid subscribers and $10 million in annual revenue.
Beginning at midnight tonight, the newspaper will open up access to its entire site to readers.
found that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com
These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.
According to Nielsen/NetRatings, NYTimes.com traffic sees roughly 13 million unique visitors each month, and could explode without a wall, according to industry observers.
The crumbling of the Times subscription model leaves the Wall Street Journal as only major newspaper in the country to charge for access to most of its Web site, generating $65 million in revenue, according to the Times.
And new WSJ owner Rupert Murdoch has been heard to speculate that he might drop the pay wall there, too.So what does this mean for magazine publishers? Consumer Reports
, one of the few remaining magazines to charge for access to its site, is nearing three million paid subscribers to its Web site. (Most subscriptions cost $26/year.)
But for most consumer magazines, the free model dominates the industry. Why? Because it comes down to readers – which is why magazine industry consultant Bob Sacks likes the Times
“They are thinking long term and this move will continue to protect and promote the Times
brand, and at the same time cultivate new readership,” Sacks wrote in an e-mail. “After all sustained loyal readership is the bedrock of any publishing empire, be it large or small. If you don't have readers, exactly what do you have?”
[UPDATE] Over at the Recovering Journalist,
Mark Potts laments
the "glee" he sees among those who opposed idea of paid access. He says the problem was that Times Select was a good idea, poorly executed, and after all it brought in $10 million. The idea of sequestering opinion and columnists behind the pay wall was wrongheaded, he says. Rather, the Times
might have provided added value:
TimesSelect could have been so much more. It could have been a high-end subscription service for in-depth coverage that wasn't otherwise available, for supplemental reporting and blogs and Web-only content in specific vertical topics that would have been valuable to the Times' core audience, and worth 50 bucks a year. As it was, the Times' decision to include almost unlimited access to its archives in TimesSelect was a smart move all by itself. Surely a broader, deeper for-pay product could have been built around that core. Alas, we may never know.
Over at Buzz Machine
, Jeff Jarvis said
the collapse was inevitable:
TimesSelect represented the last gasp of the circulation mentality of news media, the belief that surely consumers would continue to pay for content even as the internet commodified news and — more important — even as the internet revealed that the real value in media is not owning and controlling content or distribution but enabling conversation.