Monday, March 14, 2005

NYTimes: "Yeah, we might start charging money"

From Nick Wilson of the excellent (by way of a reprint at Web Pro News): The New York Times is finally considering charging money to access their website. They're already charging, after all, to get access to the crossword puzzle, and for any article over a week old, and they're still getting 1.4 million visitors a day (compared to the 1.1 million who purchase the paper version). Mr. Wilson, though, has a very good comment to make about it, which is that the entire reason the site's so popular is precisely because it's free, which then not only encourages people to simply read it, but for bloggers to make it the main source they quote and link to when discussing recent items in the news.

Having a no-charge policy, Mr. Wilson argues, is what's created the online edition's reputation in the first place - they are literally one of the most-linked-to publications on the entire planet, which is what draws 1.4 million people a day to begin with. Start charging for content, he argues, and people will merely start linking to USA Today or the Associated Press instead, whenever they want to talk about things in the news in the future. Just look at the Wall Street Journal as a cautionary tale, he says - sure, they may be making a pittance by charging for online content, but barely anyone ever links to articles there when discussing business issues online, and in fact what the WSJ has to say about a situation hardly even enters the conversation anymore, when it comes to online discussions. In effect, Wilson argues, the WSJ is literally making themselves irrelevant when it comes to online business discussions, and the NYT will do the same concerning the entire topic of news, if they decide to go the pay route. A very intriguing entry, just like I expect from Threadwatch, and a subject that would do the NYT a lot of good contemplating.