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Christopher Beck

Founder and Chief Vision Officer, 26 Dot Two

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What is your feeling on the New York Times online subscription model ?

The New York Times announced their long anticipated Paywall for Digital readers starting March 28th. The initial model is if you consume over 20 stories per month online with your iPhone or iPad you will pay $15 every four weeks, links are still free.

If anyone has the brand equity to pull this off (other than the Wall Street Journal) it would be the NYT. There is no secret on the plunge of readership of Print Newspapers over the last 5 years. In the age of Instant news and twitter feeds the consumption of news through a printed document that was put to bed 1/2 a day or more before you read it seems archaic to many.

If this was done 2 or 3 years ago it would be met with different reception than today. The dramatic growth of tablets and targeted news aggregators like Flipboard, Zuni and Pulse, targeted ones like Mashable, the increasing influence of bloggers means this evolution will probably not create the desired impact for their bottom-line. Just as Craigs list robbed the print editions of classified revenues, I feel the explosion of news aggregators and APPS probably means they are to late to the party.

The question is the long term survival of the model including not only how many people will actually “pony up” but what the churn rate of those subscribing will be, we believe it will be very high. While there may be Regional adaptation of the model in the New York City/ Tri State area there is simply too much free information available to make this work. The better solution would be for them to figure out how to better monetize their content through advertising a model that works for Google, Pandora an virtually everyone providing news/entertainment in the digital space.

Your thoughts?

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    Mar 22 2011: The NYT is following a very smart approach that I believe will be successful. They are making the heavy readers pay, without loosing the traffic of the occasional readers and those who come in through social media channels. Social media is very important for the NYT, they have the most retweeted news. Their objective is to monetize the site minimizing the loss in site traffic, and therefore, advertising revenue. They have taken a lot of time to think about this and get it very right. Their sin was to give away quality content for free, now it won't be easy to make the readers pay, but this is by far the smartest approach that they could possibly take!

    I once red that only 20% of the NYT readers were heavy readers, the rest are just swinging by a couple of times a month. With this piece of data in mind, their current strategy makes total sense

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