Class Blog Discussion #1:

Hi multimediaites —

One of the major discussions going on within Web journalism circles (and journalism circles overall) is how news organizations can make money off of their Web operations.  There are many innovative experiments going on and there are lots of organizations also trying to figure out ways to apply the newspaper subscriber model to the Web.  This week, the New York Times announced its plans to “charge for frequent access to its web site.”

The plan is not scheduled to start until next year and NYT officials took part in an online discussion today on the proposal.  Please read the article and the discussion and weigh in with your comments in the comments section before next class.

Steve

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14 Responses to Class Blog Discussion #1:

  1. David Brinch says:

    I know this isn’t a sports class, but this article reminded me a lot of what ESPN does with its insider information. For those of you who are unfamiliar, ESPN.com posts a ton of information for free. But for an extended fee, you can get an all-access “insider” information. Along with advertisements and search engines in order to gain revenue, I think this is a smart way for the NYT to increase revenue. Even though the NYT is one of the most widely read and most financially stable newspapers, in these economic times, any new way of making money is a good thing.

  2. Elyse Horowitz says:

    I think one of the most important aspects of the NYT’s move towards charging for news services is the fact that there is a certain amount of trust that readers are putting into the reporters from which they are getting their news. Because the Times has a good following from their readership, it allows them to have the ability to charge for their product, assuming that NYT readers are as loyal as they seem, and will choose to pay for their news content. I think that this is a fair move on the part of the NYT, and other newspapers if they choose to charge for online readership, as well. If readers are willing to pay for the hard copy of a newspaper, it is a fair assumption that they will be just as likely to pay to receive their news online. However, since the paper is not charging any additional fees for those who are already subscribers to their hard copy product, who are essentially their loyal readers, it is possible that they will not create any more revenue.

  3. Caitlin Quinn says:

    I like that this plan is to charge readers after they have read a certain amount of full articles for free, rather than following the models of some other papers, who show part of an article for free and charge to show the rest of that article. Those models do a disservice to the journalist by showing some of the relevant parts of a story but not others, to readers who are not willing to pay. This NYT model will charge readers who regularly rely on the paper and therefore should be supporting it anyway. It will also allow possible new readers to view some full articles and get a taste of the paper.
    Also, I think we can all agree that there should be a student discount! As the discussion mentions, there is already a student discount for the hard copy of the paper.

  4. Danielle Kahn says:

    I think it is very important for the Times to make sure that the subscription process is easy. I do believe that people will be willing to pay a flat fee to read articles online since many pay already to get the paper, but if the process becomes tedious or confusing, they’ll lose those readers very fast. It’s true that online newspapers can’t survive on just advertising money only, but the Times needs to get more details out to its readers soon. Once they specify how many articles you can read before you’re charged or how much the flat fee will be, it might make the readers feel better about the change.

  5. Alex Holden says:

    The New York Times is unique in that it has such an established readership based on the fact that it is well respected amongst the journalism community. Therefore, with that perception of ‘quality journalism,’ readers will be willing to pay.

    Like the last post about sports, I too have the “ESPN Insider.” I pay for my subscription because I get the printed ESPN Magazine, as well as online access to a variety of different pages that only “Insiders” are privileged too. Sports Illustrated has a similar program that I use. My main reason for paying for these resources is because I feel that the quality of sports reporting is better than others, so I have to pay for it.

    The NY Times shouldn’t be different.

  6. Niina Heikkinen says:

    I think that the New York Times might as well try to make revenue off of its main content. As long as there are ways around paying, I don’t think that it will hurt readership too much. People who read the only version regularly probably once had a paper subscription at some point, and so might not be as against paying for the online version as occasional users would be.

    I think that initially there will be a backlash against payment, but if all media websites adopt a similar payment model at the same time, then I think more people would be willing to pay for the paper.

  7. Tracey Garlington says:

    Hopefully the NYTs knowledge of past failures in this area, including their own, will enable them to create a system that won’t make people too upset, while making themselves some needed money. Coming from the perspective of a poor college student, having to pay limits quality news information to those who can most easily afford it, which seems unfortunate. But, our generation grew up accustomed to limitless free music thanks to Napster and adjusted to the pay per song system of iTunes, making us more prepared to give up what was too good to be true in the first place, again. Also, I’m wondering if the fee for online content system will increase the number of hard copy subscribers. Depending on their final decision on cost, it may make sense for many people, if they’re going to pay, to put their money toward something they can hold in their hands (and, also have online access along with it). I like the hard copy version, but never considered subscribing because I could get the same information for free online.

  8. Mike Gardner says:

    I think this is an absolutely crucial move being made by the New York Times. It’s important for people to realize that quality journalism comes at a price and that by paying this one time fee we can help make sure that happens. However, I’m wondering if a one time fee will be enough. Why not a yearly subscription to make it more like a print subscription? It could obviously be cheaper than a print subscription but it might help bring in a steadier flow of money. It might be an unrealistic idea at this point, but I think it’s worth talking about.

    • Maura Anderson says:

      I understand the business model of relying on loyal members to stay loyal and to pay a fee to continue using a service they already enjoy. What I do not understand is how much money the Times thinks they can make off those members. As Elyse said above, those loyal members are probably already paying for print subscriptions, in which case they would gain no revenue from them when they start charging for online content. On the other hand, they may be targeting only the people who read news online and do not have subscriptions to hard copies. This is really the group they can make money off of. But the question remains how much money they will make from them, and whether that is enough to justify the loss in readership when people refuse to pay. That is the crucial piece of information the Times left out.

  9. Gillian Ball says:

    One of the biggest issues we talk about in all of my online journalism classes is the problem of how to make money from the web. As much as a pain this new NYT fee will be for people who rely on the free access to articles, I can see why it is necessary to charge. Advertisements should not be the only way to make money on the web, especially for a news-based website. I’m actually surprised that it has taken this long for fees to be introduced, considering many sites, such as ones that have book summaries or other articles, have restricted access.

  10. Becca Babin says:

    Downloading music for free is considered piracy. I personally believe that accessing news media for free should be considered piracy too. It seems odd that people are opposed to paying for a product/service that they take advantage of on a daily basis. Would you expect your morning latte for free? Or your car to be washed for free? Then why should reporters at the NYT be providing news content that you can access for free? That being said, I don’t think this particular NYT pay model is the right one. It seems too hard to police and unfair to certain users. I think the subscription model for Conde Nast’s WWD could be used here. You have three choices at different rates: Home delivery only, online only, or both. The only way this can work though is if every major newspaper adopts an online subscription model. If the NYT goes it alone people will take their business elsewhere, where the news is still free.

  11. Alex Tillotson says:

    After what we talked about in class today and hearing other’s opinions on this topic, I think it’s safe to say that this is a pretty difficult topic to discuss and it may never come to a real conclusion. I think that charging for news on a paper’s site is a good idea. I just think that they’e trying to propose it way too late in the game. They should have thought of this years ago when they were all building sites for their publications. If they had charged for it from the beginning, this wouldn’t even be a discussion today. But they didn’t and now people know that even if they do begin to charge for it, there will still be sites that rip off these news stories and re-run them on their own sites or blogs. It’s the internet, it’s a vast space, and anything is possible. All it takes is for one person to pay, and then post what they’ve paid for on 100 different sites for everyone to see without having to pay a cent. Personally, I am not against paying for news. I already pay for a magazine publication, but as a student it is difficult to afford more fees every month or year, etc. I will definitely be paying for my news in the future when I have a steady income, but right now I wouldn’t be able to do it. If they can swing it so that it works then it’s a great idea. I hope it does end up working out for the news sites though. Reporters do too much work not to get paid well for it.

  12. Melissa Barrett says:

    As I was saying in class, the way they determine what “frequent” is and how much they will be charging will affect who will be purchasing the product and who won’t be. If their target demographic is the college student, then charging them anything close to $100 is probably not going to happen. Students who pay for their tuition, groceries, rent ect. are not going to be dropping $100 a year to get news they can probably find elsewhere on blogs for free. The NYT should offer discounts to sign up for college students, especially during peak times: beginning of fall semester, the holidays and beginning of spring semester. That way if a student wants to subscribe to the Times but is unable to do so due to finances, the Times might have a better shot at hooking that person with a discount. College students LOVE discounts, as I very well know.
    But in order to hit this “target demographic” the panel should have been inviting college aged students and not people who have been reading the times for 50 years, in my opinion.

  13. Nick Powers says:

    The first thing I thought of with the whole “for an extra fee, you get this-” type of approach was certain online research websites, like WedMD or PubMed. I’m not sure if those two definitively fall under this category, but I can remember in the past browsing and researching for papers that I was doing, coming across helpful and insightful articles on such websites, but only having access to the first paragraph or so. Therefore it lets people get an idea of what they’ll be reading before they pay to buy the whole article.

    If the New York Times wishes to do something similar, they should probably take an approach where the reader could pay so much to have access to x number of articles a month, ending with an unlimited access fee. That way, the social reader can get their fix, and the hardcore reader theirs.

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