The New York Times on the Web, which is owned by The New York Times Company, has been considering charging for years and is expected to make an announcement soon about its plans. In January, The Times’s Web site had 1.4 million unique daily visitors. Its daily print circulation averaged 1,124,000 in 2004, down from its peak daily circulation of 1,176,000 in 1993.
Executives at The Times have suggested that the paper, which already charges for its crossword puzzle, news alerts and archives online, may start charging for other portions of its content, but would not follow the Journal model, which charges online readers $79 a year for everything.
I forget who first made this point?Ezra Klein possibly [UPDATE: here ’tis]?but you have to think that whichever newspaper makes this jump first is going to lose out in a big way. If suddenly I have to pay to read the New York Times online, and can’t just *ahem* find the password somewhere, then it’s not a big deal. I’ll just go read the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times and KnightRidder and get my liberal media fix. There’s not that much of a difference that I so desperately need the Times.
But suppose the move is inevitable. Betsy Newmark thinks subscriber fees would “put a crimp in political blogging.” Perhaps. But then again, perhaps this could all work out in a way that actually improve political blogging. What if the daily news was subscriber-only, but all the news archives were free and open to internet users everywhere? Blogging, it seems, could certainly benefit from slowing things down a bit and doing more commenting on week-old or month-old political stories. And sure, a few big bloggers and institutions would no doubt still buy subscriptions and do “insta-updates” with off-the-cuff commentary, but the rest of us would have to do a bit more thoughtful analysis/research/reporting and a bit less hyperactive mouse-clicking and “breaking” updates. That sounds fine to me!
(On a side note, making news archive-only would also make op-ed pundits more accountable, since we’d all be reading their predictions a week or so after being written. Of course, this would probably just force op-ed writers to make predictions on a longer time scale?”infinite horizon” punditry could become the new trend.)