Boldly going where others so far fear to tread, the New York Times has announced that, starting in 2011, frequent visitors to their online website will have to pay for content.
Paying for online content has been a hot subject in recent months and the NYT, the largest newspaper in America, is the first to head down this road.
No details have yet been worked out as to exactly how the system will function but it is thought that periodic visitors to the site, who are by far the majority, will continue to be able to access free content. The idea appears to be to set a limit on the number of ‘free’ visits, above this will result in people being asked to pay a flat-fee subscription for unlimited access.
Subscribers to the printed edition of the newspaper will continue to have unlimited access to the online site.
The NYT, as the largest circulation paper in the USA with 17 million readers each month, has every chance of making this work, as long as it is well thought-out. However, they are also large enough to suffer terribly if it doesn’t work. Others in the industry will be watching with interest.
Two specialist newspapers already operate a subscription system, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, whereby readers can read up to ten articles per month free of charge but have to subscribe if they want more. The Times is also thought to be planning a similar system.
There is still much debate as to whether digital subscription revenue will make up for the loss of advertising revenue and only time will tell.