IF YOU CHARGE FOR IT, WILL THEY COME?: The New York Times is mostly free to readers on the Web, but that may be about to change. In a question and answer session on nytimes.com, executive editor Bill Keller said a “lively, deadly serious discussion” continues within the Times about ways to get online consumers to pay for its content. He admitted the paper’s former subscription model, TimesSelect, wasn’t the answer, conceding that “it’s possible we just put the wrong stuff behind the wall.” TimesSelect generated revenues of about $10 million a year but, in the end, executives thought it would be better to welcome the flood of additional, unpaid visitors to the site, to attract ad dollars.
Keller touched on The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, which both have paid tiers in their Web sites, adding the News Corp.-owned Journal doesn’t provide financial data, but if it did, one would see that wsj.com (which has 1.07 million current subscribers who pay around $89 a year each) generates far less revenue than nytimes.com. But Keller went on to say that if Web advertising takes a “long dive” or if an engineer figures out how to decouple a paid site from the search function, a subscription model is worth a closer look.
Although the current economic environment doesn’t quite qualify as a “long dive,” the New York Times Co. recently reported fourth-quarter Internet revenues down 2.9 percent to $92.5 million and Internet ad revenues down 3.5 percent to $81.9 million. Keller said another option that tops most study lists is a micropayment model that has readers paying a few pennies every time they click on a page. — Amy Wicks