The New York Times prepares to lose, I mean charge, its online readers
The other, more likely solution is a metered system, where readers will be able to read a fixed number of free articles before they have to subscribe. These models may be working - sort of - for other papers, but The New York Times is one of the papers of record in the US, and has a worldwide readership of 20 million to consider.
What makes Sulzberger think his paper's readership can sustain the shift to a pay model when so many users won't even read an article that requires a free account? I know this only anecdotal evidence, and maybe the board at the Times has studies that contradict it, but many people I know won't even read a free NYT article if they have to log in to do it. BugMeNot.com is swimming with Times accounts you can use to avoid the registration process. If users are willing to go that far to avoid registration, I can't imagine they'll react any more positively to the pay model.
That's not to say that the New York Times isn't worth paying for. It's an important resource full of crucial reporting, and I'm sure a great many people are willing to subscribe to the online edition. Unfortunately, the Times seems to have ruled out an NPR or public-TV-like donation model that could take advantage of this public goodwill. I'd like to see the paper give that a shot, considering how important its place as an international resource has become.
Meanwhile, the switch to pay could be preparation for a lucrative contract deal with Apple, based around the tablet device that's due out later this month. We should find out everything in the next couple of weeks. Until we do, enjoy the still-free-for-now New York Times!
[via New York magazine]