January 22, 2010

Will New York Times Readers Pay for Online Content?

By David Paulin

Struggling to turn a profit and stop a hemorrhage of buyouts and layoffs, the New York Times just announced that it will be charging readers to access some of its content next year. The details have yet to be worked out. However, it seems that readers will receive free access to a certain number of articles, and after that they'll
have to pay to read "All the News that's Fit to Print."

Will it work?

Obviously, it depends on whether readers think the Times' journalism is worth paying for, and it depends as well on how much the Times will be charging. The conservative Wall Street Journal -- unlike the ultraliberal Times -- charges a hefty subscription rate for its
popular online content, and the Journal also happens to be the nation's biggest circulation newspaper.

Let's admit something. The Times does occasionally pull off some first-rate journalism, even as its conservative critics rightly criticize it for the liberal spin it puts on its supposedly objective news articles. However, first-rate journalism alone does not necessarily mean that loyal Times readers will be willing to cough up a subscription fee.

I say that based on who the Times readers are (compared to those of the Wall Street Journal), and I say that based on a regular look that I take of the most e-mailed articles at the Times and Journal.

To paraphrase an old saying: Show me who your readers are, and I'll show you who you are. Well, take a look at some of the most e-mailed article at the Times and Journal, and it obviously says something about what's important those papers readers, and it says something about their values and worldview. This of course raises another question: Would these readers be willing to pay for the types of stories that they are so quick to e-mail?

Here are some of the most e-mailed stories from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times from January 20, 2010:

Wall Street Journal
1. Opinion: Boston Tea Party
2. Opinion: Lanny J. Davis: Blame the Left for Massachusetts
3. Opinion: The Message of Massachusetts
4. Opinion: Terry Miller: The U.S. Isn't as Free as It Used to Be
5. Unfinished Projects Weigh on Banks
6. How to Buy Disability Insurance
7. GOP Victory Upends Senate
8. May I Hate the Saints?
9. Opinion: Michael Mann's Climate Stimulus
10. Opinion: The Great D.C. Migration
1. If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online
2. DE GUSTIBUS: Snack Time Never Ends
3. The Times to Charge for Frequent Access to Its Web Site
4. More Men Marrying Wealthier Women
5. You Saw What in ‘Avatar’? Pass Those Glasses!
6. Op-Ed Contributor: Taxing Wall Street Down to Size
7. G.O.P. Senate Victory Stuns Democrats
8. Thomas L. Friedman: Is China an Enron? (Part 2)
9. DINING & WINE: The Balkan Burger Unites All Factions
10. INTERNATIONAL / EUROPE. The Female Factor: In Germany, a Tradition Falls, and Women Rise

This originally ran as a blog item at The American Thinker.

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