Thursday, March 17, 2011

New York Times Requiring Paid Subscription For Online Content

The wall is slowly going up around The New York Times web content. For the occasional user, sampling will be free; but once you've read too much, a subscription to the site will be required. "There are three pricing plans for people to choose from; at each pricing level, the level of access readers have to the paper's content increases. The cheapest costs $15 per month. The most costly plan costs $35 per month, and allows unlimited access to the Times' website, smartphone and tablet apps. People who subscribe to the print edition of the paper will also have unlimited access." For print subscribers, it will be like getting a bonus edition. For newsstand purchasers, it might be financially more attractive to buy the online version.

Other newspapers and magazines will watch and see how well this change is treated by The New York Times' customer and what the financial ramifications may be. It could lead to higher subscription revenue; it could also lead to a drop in online usage and consequently online revenue. And should it prove successful, watch as the free amount of content drops. They will initially offer 20 free article views per month. Success could drive that sampling number down; instead, they could offer a daily fee for access.

Given the rise in iPads and smartphone usage, the timing may just be right. With other content competing in this space, however, the Times must really push its brand value to justify its cost. Otherwise, free and lower cost content from other sources will simply push the Times further out of the picture.

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