Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sea Change or a Sinking Ship?

The New York Times announced today that it is going to a pay wall for its online content on March 28.  Simplistically put, it will give you 20 articles a month (with some exceptions depending on how you arrive at  After that you have to pay between $15 and $35 a month to read the site.

I’m all in favor of The Times and other news providers providing quality product and I know that costs money.  My problem is that my news reading has changed over the last 15 or so years.

I used to read the local paper, watch some network news, listen to NPR and a local radio news program or two and call it a day.  Total cost $10 or so a month for the paper, a contribution to public radio station and an annoyance factor from the radio and TV commercials and pledge drives.

Now, in any given week, most on a daily basis, I read the online versions of The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, both Chicago newspapers, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Slate, Salon, Engadget, TechCrunch, three Android OS sites, CNN, NPR, The Apple Insider, Hacking Netflix, The Hill, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, Forbes, Leonard Pitts, Roger Ebert, Google News, The Huffington Post, some occasional Fox News, BBC News, and probably some other publications that aren’t coming to mind as I type this.

NYT is big in the rotation but it’s not $15 a month big.

With some guilt, I hope the Grey Lady fails to attract enough subscribers to make a go of this.  Why?  If it’s a success, many of the news providers listed above will do the same thing; and, I’m for sure not going to pop for multiple $15 subscriptions each month.

But there’s a solution to this problem.  I invented it some time back. A company like Google in the form of Google News or Apple with its iTunes and other products are perfectly situated to start the "News Store." Have a website where someone like me that reads a lot of news from a lot of sources can pay $x a month, something in the neighborhood of $15-20, for "all you can eat" news from the site's content providers. The site takes a cut of the revenue and the rest of it is divided among the providers based on the number of hits they get. Good content, more revenue for the provider, more quality, more revenue - a positive "vicious circle." I think it would be win-win for everyone.

Netflix and LoveFilm in Europe (that Amazon just bought) seem to me to have proved that people will pay for varied content and that the distributer and the content provider can make money under the model. Netflix has perfected the all you can eat for one price model with streaming movies. It negotiates a price with the content providers and keeps the extra as its profit. The trick is to strike a balance where the provider is just this side of happy with the payment, it is just this side of happy with its cut and I am just this side of happy with what I pay.

Just doesn’t seem all that hard to me; but, who am I to tell The New York Times how to run its business?


Sonja said...

Hi Dave

Dave said...

Hey Sonja. This is unexpected.