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The Fate of The Free Newspaper 459

Posted by Hemos
from the it-won't-outlive-heat-death dept.
jm92956n writes "We've all become accustomed to the wide availability of newspapers and other media online, almost all of which is available for free. Today, however, The New York Times (free registration required; how ironic!) is running an article that questions the long term viability of that business model. Interestingly, the Times now has more online readers than print readers. Is the era of free news content about to end?"
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The Fate of The Free Newspaper

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  • by lucifuge31337 (529072) * <daryl@noSPAm.introspect.net> on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:03AM (#11932143) Homepage
    But when it comes to online news, they are happy to read it but loath to pay for it.

    1). We're already used to it being free
    2.) The payment barrier still sucks, i.e.: No valid micropayment system exists (STILL) and people who read their news ont he web generally don't want a subscription to every resource they use. If there were a reasonable micropayment system in place, where content poroviders could charge you a few cents to read an article or access certian content, without hassle to the end-user, this type of thing could work.

    How do you get a critical mass using a micropayment system? I'm not touching that one. If I had an answer, I'd already be at 5.) Profit!
    • Absolutely right. Micropayments is it. Not just the solution to free news but a plethora of other problems as well, probably including -- at least to a first approximation -- spam.

      You know what worries me? The answer to micropayments will be PayPal. That's scary. But probably what will happen. We're certainly there for mini-payments right now ($2-$5 stuff).
      • by LocoMan (744414) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:21AM (#11932343) Homepage
        Maybe there should be some way where it can be handled by the ISP like it's done with phone companies these days. There are lots of services in the phone (and even more in cell phones) that I don't really have to subscribe to, but there's a rate for using it, which is reflected on my bill.

        Maybe we need some kind of micropayment standard, where people could pay a small amount if they only want to read a single article on a subscrption only website, and then the payment comes with your ISP fees and the ISP pays whoever you're paying to.

        There would need to be some huge protections around this, though... so it's not abused by shady "click OK if you want to pay us 10,000 dollars" kind of websites.

        • Google could solve this with a snap of its fingers. They're already searching online papers, they just need to devise a way to bill people for reading paid content and distribute payments to the papers. Subscription or pay-as-you-go online credits might work.

          • by Winkhorst (743546) on Monday March 14, 2005 @12:11PM (#11932900)
            I might consider paying for an "all you can eat" system that gave me access to vast quantities of premium content, but I am NOT going to be nickeled and dimed to death with "micropayments" to every Tom Dick and Harry who thinks his useless two cents worth should be billed to the reader at that rate. When's the last time you actually read some "news" online that required anything other than the most superficial fact gathering? Half these idiots can't get the easy facts right, let along getting to the bottom of a complex story. And the day Google starts routing me to pay-per-view pages without clearly notifying me in advance is the day I find another search engine. Some of you folks need to go back and reread the Cluetrain Manifesto.
            • And the day Google starts routing me to pay-per-view pages without clearly notifying me in advance is the day I find another search engine.

              This already happens when you type a linguistic term into Google. You will typically get a lot of results from journal articles in PubMed, where abstracts are free but most full text costs at least 20 USD. You can identify these pay-per-view articles by looking for evidence of NOCACHE instructions, namely the absence of a "Cached" link (for HTML) or the absence of a

        • by Columcille (88542) on Monday March 14, 2005 @12:17PM (#11932958) Homepage
          Interesting idea, but I don't see this ever working, at least not with the current structure of the net. Unless the user had to provide the information to the website, there would be no real way of knowing who to bill. Current phone systems make it pretty simple for a number to know where to send the bill and who is being billed. The internet provides no such ease, as user data is generally not available. About the most a website can hope for is the user's IP address and even that can't be validated with any degree of reliability. As well, this wouldn't do anything for those users who access sites from a coffee shop, airport terminal, college dorm room, the workplace, etc. Generally if a person calls a phone service that charges their account, they do it from home. Such services are not accessible from other phone. Blocking computer users not tied to some sort of paid ISP would be suicide to a company since that is a lot of users. Thinking of something myself, I'm not sure why iTunes' method wouldn't work. Music purchased through iTunes is not immediately charged to your account. My observation has been that about once a day they charge your account for all music purchased that day, rather than doing several smaller charges. Sites doing this would still require you sign up and provide billing information, but rather than doing a credit on every download they credit the account once a week or something like that.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        There will never be a large market for paid content on the web. The web is not like TV or even radio; the entry cost into the game is much lower so if NYT and all of the big papers start to charge for their content, then a cheaper advertiser paid market will open up flourish and dominate because a news site is cheap enough to run on ad only revenue.
    • by 91degrees (207121) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:14AM (#11932256) Journal
      The payment barrier still sucks, i.e.: No valid micropayment system exists (STILL)

      I don't think people like micropayments. Flat rate for a lot of stuff would appeal to a lot of people a whole lot more.
      • by Tim C (15259) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:29AM (#11932417)
        Indeed. I don't want to have to think "If I click this link, it'll cost me $smallAmount, which will add up to - hell, how much this month so far? $largerAmount or $evenLargerAmount?"

        If it's something I use regularly, I'd rather pay a subscription. If it's something I just browse now and then, a micropayment model would be fine.
      • by mirko (198274) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:34AM (#11932457) Journal
        Some newspaper [courrierin...tional.com] actually let you access all of their online articles using a code they send you when you subscribe to their paper edition. I think this is the most interesting way to develop this : it helps the paper edition to survive while adding value to the subscription.
        • It kills trees.
          • It kills trees.
            It has been many years since any newspapers were made from "trees". It costs way to much to much produce.

            Newspapers of today are made from herbaceous plants.
        • Some newspaper actually let you access all of their online articles using a code they send you when you subscribe to their paper edition.

          Quite common for magazines. I think most newspapers don't assume their content has enough medium-term value to make the free online access a significant draw, so it's not worth using access to it to try and increase paper circulation, rather they use the online presence as advertising.

          One interesting case is the BBC [bbc.co.uk] funded by UK TV licence payers. They have no real mot

      • by justforaday (560408) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:42AM (#11932565)
        Flat rate for a lot of stuff would appeal to a lot of people a whole lot more.

        This would be possible if only one or two media companies owned everything. Too bad things aren't going that direction...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Making you beleive that they rely on price you pay for a newspaper is a gimmick.

      They make money from the ads inside and they charge more for adds by the amount of reader they have.

      Same thing for magazine, 3/4 of a magazione are advertisement and they still charge you for it.

      It's people's mentality to beleive that a newspaper that is free is not good and can't have good article, they rather read a newpaper that you pay for.
    • Free News (Score:4, Interesting)

      by simpl3x (238301) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:26AM (#11932391)
      It should work like the Economist.com. Most material is free excepting the business intelligence (Oxymoron? You decide.), but everything else is available for viewing. Like /. most newspapers could market timeliness, and make everything else available without a subscription.

      • The Economist (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymovs Coward (724746) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:59AM (#11932767)
        It should work like the Economist.com. Most material is free excepting the business intelligence

        No, most material there is not free. Perhaps the front page looks that way, but try clicking on "current issue".

        But you're right, they have a terrific business model. They got me hooked with the free stuff and eventually I got tired of not being able to read the rest and subscribed. And I'm not alone: they recently hit the million subscriber mark.

        I certainly wouldn't subscribe to the NYT if it tried that stunt, but I'm sure there are people who would. In fact, there may be people who already do, to read the archives.

    • by DenDave (700621) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:28AM (#11932405)
      Apart from the whole information wants to be free issue... I think that many prefer to pay for the paper and not for the electrons. Myself included, I dislike the idea of paying for a website access for a variety of reasons. One of them is that if you cancel, you get spammed. Another is that online registrations are invasive, you don't need to know my date of birth, really you don't. Furthermore, I buy my paper at the newsstand, it's fun, I like it. I am happy to throw some coins at the fat guy in the greasy shirt who runs the stand. In the long run I suppose we will all end up autmagically paying per-view but when that day arives, I think I may buy a printing press on ebay for dirt cheap and start up a newspaper.

      • by forrestt (267374) on Monday March 14, 2005 @12:34PM (#11933154) Homepage Journal
        Actually, there isn't a problem. Some bean counters at the newspaper are looking at their books and seeing an increase in the amount of people reading their newspaper online, and a reduction in the amount of "paper" sales. The newspapers don't make as much money from online ads and are saying the sky is falling. These are "old school" newspaper folk who don't realize that what they are selling on the street isn't the news, it is the medium it is being deliverd on. They are too short sighted to realize that as more people read the news online, the prices of ad-space will increase. I cannot believe that the $.50 a paper costs (less if you have a subscription) is in any way paying for more than the paper, ink, and delivery costs associated with bringing a paper to the reader. The costs almost entirely disappear with online papers (yes, I know the bandwith and server charges are there, but those are really nothing in comparison to the amount of money a newspaper spends on paper and ink). The real money a newspaper makes is in selling ads. Currently online advertisements aren't as profitable. But that is because industry isn't used to this type of advertisement, and isn't sure it is worth spending money on. So, the newspapers are selling online ad space for less money. But as online ads catch on, companies will feel more comfortable with them, and they will be just as profitable as "traditional" ad space.
    • by dsginter (104154) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:36AM (#11932483)
      How do you get a critical mass using a micropayment system?

      Easy, if you're Microsoft.

      1) Release $5 or $10 worth of bundled micropayments with Longhorn.
      2) Siphon a percentage of the transactions.
      3) People see value in micropayment driven content and find themselves renewing with their own dime.
      4) Profit!

      Unfortunately, Microsoft is playing the role of the evil monopoly that can do nothing right. So we'll have to wait until some bright spark does it first and then gets aquired by Microsoft.

      You'd think that, with an R&D budget in the billions, we'd have this from Microsoft by now. Is there some sort of rule that prevents large companies from coming up with something innovative on their own?
    • by TheophileEscargot (309117) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:39AM (#11932520) Homepage
      If I see a really interesting article, I'll probably want my friends to see it too; either by emailing it or blogging about it.

      A subscription-only site has less value to me since I can't spread the news around. Even if I subscribe to a micropayments scheme, my friends probably don't.

      If you close content off from the public, you reduce the value of that content. A subscription site might have great content, but most people will never know about it because no-one else is linking too it.
    • We already have the input side of a valid micropayment system. It's called taxation. News and other content could be a public service with private providers, if some bright business people would get over the "socialism" barrier and put some time into figuring out the mechanics of getting the right amount of money to the providers, instead of the spending all their time on the mechanics of withholding the content from non-payers.
      • That is SUCH a remarkably bad idea. It puts the government in a position to decide what is or isn't worthwhile or legitimate news, and to fund it with the taxes appropriately.

        In addition: Maybe I, as a taxpayer, don't want my nickel going to the liberal/conservative/communist/libertarian rag on the corner, and I only want to financially support the local whack-job-environmentalist newsletter. Why should I be forced to subsidize the others?
    • I think another issue is: people already pay a lot of money for fast internet access. At least in the U.S., you pay anywhere from $30 to $50 monthly, depending on what services are available in the area.

      Most people, after paying that amount of money, probably feel entitled to have a certain level of access to information. When you pay for a cable subscription, you get a bunch of channels as part of the deal. You then pay more for premium content without the ads. That seems to be the business model right
  • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:04AM (#11932152) Homepage Journal
    >> Is the era of free news content about to end?

    Paypal me $1 for the answer.
  • On the move (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:05AM (#11932156)
    What about people who read the paper on the train or bus? I have no desire to get my laptop out or have to read articles on a tiny mobile phone screen just to get my dose of news in a morning. I think newspapers in print will be a round a while yet, just to serve the needs of the communter. I couldn't survive my journey into Manchester without the Metro, and the letters page is always hilarious!
  • What's the allure to the consumer of a "paper" paper? With an online newspaper, I can browse at work, for free, without getting ink on my hands.
    • Re:Tradeoff? (Score:3, Interesting)

      It's all about tactility, presence, something real, that you can have and hold and possess. I don't care what anyone says, tactility brings a measure of comfort and pleasure you're not going to get from a screen. Then there's the smell of a fresh paper. I'm not saying that it's up there with the smell of frying bacon in the morning, but it adds to the experience. That's it - a print paper is an experience, text on a screen is just, boring...
      • by Ironsides (739422) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:47AM (#11932620) Homepage Journal
        Ms Calendar: Honestly, what is it about them that bothers you so much?

        Giles: The smell.

        Ms Calendar: Computers don't smell, Rupert.

        Giles: I know. Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell. Musty and, and, and, and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer, is, it ... it has no texture, no context. It's there and then it's gone. If it's to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible, it should be, um... smelly.

        Ms Calendar: Well! You really are an old-fashioned boy, aren't you?

        This explain anything? That said, there really is something about having an acutal piece of paper in your hands. Maybe if electronic paper [parc.com] ever gets developed enought that might help.
    • Re:Tradeoff? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SlamMan (221834)
      But not as easy to read on the train to work.
      • Re:Tradeoff? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tassach (137772)
        Speaking of reading the paper on the train, I just got off the train, where I had been reading a free hardcopy newspaper.

        If giving away words printed on paper is a viable business model, there's no way you can argue that giving away words on a computer screen isn't. Walking through Union Station in the morning, I see no fewer than three different free daily newspapers. Obviously someone is making money doing this, otherwise they wouldn't keep doing it.

    • by arcite (661011) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:18AM (#11932312)
      I'm not too sure about allure, but if you are anything like the common spy (or covert operative, black-op...ect), reading a newspaper is a great disguise.

      Tip: For added camouflage, poke little 'eye' holes through one side and be rendered practically invisible!

    • Re:Tradeoff? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tenebrious1 (530949) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:22AM (#11932351) Homepage
      What's the allure to the consumer of a "paper" paper? With an online newspaper, I can browse at work, for free, without getting ink on my hands.

      The weight. The portability. The convenience. Yeah, I can pop open my laptop in bed, or at the kitchen table, but the physical paper is much easier to carry around from bed to kitchen. When on the subway, it's impossible to pop open a laptop to read the news. On the commuter train, you can use a laptop, but with the crowded seats the paper is still more convenient. During lunch if it's nice out I'll head to the park, maybe bring the paper with me. The actual paper is so much easier to carry around and to read than a full sized laptop. No, PDAs just don't work for reading news.

      • by CausticPuppy (82139) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:58AM (#11932753) Homepage
        he weight. The portability. The convenience.

        Exactly. Not to mention the other uses.
        Have you ever used a laptop to line a bird cage? The keys get sticky.
        Or house train a dog? You can really injure a puppy if you discipline it using the online version of NYT on your full-tower box.
        Although some laptops seem to run hot enough to start fires, using a "paper" newspaper is a much better idea for a fireplace.

        Paper gives you much better blanket coverage when sleeping on the subway. Chances are that if a bum has a laptop, he won't be needing to sleep on the subway anyway. It's also much harder to discreetly spy/follow somebody on the street if you're trying to walk around holding a laptop in front of your face.

        Paper newspapers will never go away.
      • Re:Tradeoff? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Rinikusu (28164) on Monday March 14, 2005 @12:00PM (#11932785)
        And it's not just newspapers. While I agree that most magazines are fluff, I certainly love to have stacks of various journals (usually biology/science/astronomy related) around that I can peruse on a lazy Sunday afternoon and not have to worry about if the image server is down, the website address has changed, or the search is working on a particular site. I can't count the number of times when I've googled for something, gone to the site and get a glarin "Bandwidth exceeded", or 404 not found, or no pictures (just ugly red X's), etc.

        I'd love if all journals/newspapers also did a complete "digitization" of their materials and released a yearly compendium on CD/DVD (just for quick searches), but nothing still quite beats the actual FEEL of reading a good paper-based product.
    • Re:Tradeoff? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LocoMan (744414) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:24AM (#11932375) Homepage
      Yeah, but it would look weird to carry your computer with you to read in the bathroom (I swear, that's the best reading seat in the whole house!!!).. :)
    • What's the allure to the consumer of a "paper" paper?

      It may be read while visiting the restroom.

      This was the argument of a couple of consumers in favour of a printed TV-programme magazine when I conducted a couple of in-depth interviews.

      The foldable foil-display gadget will take care of he issue once it is there.

      CC.
    • The real answer for me is that it's just easier for me to eat breakfast over a $.25 newspaper than a $1,800 laptop computer. Coffee becomes less worrying.

      Another answer I haven't seen mentioned in the other responses is resolution. A laptop screen runs at maybe 70 DPI; perhaps anti-aliasing runs that up to an equivalent of 90. A paper is printed at something more equivalent to 300 DPI, which makes the text a whole lot easier on the eyes.

      I see this all the time in offices; people will take PDFs and prin
    • You ever tried to swat your dog with a desktop or laptop computer?
    • Even better is having the whole paper on the screen without getting ink on your fingers. College Newsify [newsify.com] has a really cool viewer for viewing full-page newspapers. Best of all, college students can read all of the newspapers for free.
  • So wait... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kenja (541830) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:05AM (#11932159)
    Are you saying that having no source of revenue is a poor buisness model? Whell now you tell me, thats just great.
  • Can't beat the Beeb. (Score:5, Informative)

    by caluml (551744) <slashdot@spamgoe ... g ['re.' in gap]> on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:05AM (#11932160) Homepage
    You can't beat the good old BBC [bbc.co.uk]. They even have pages in many different languages [bbc.co.uk]. And because they don't rely on advertising, they don't have to suckle on the corporate teat. Get your (pretty much) unbaised news here.
    • Yeah, but try housebreaking your puppy on the Beeb.
    • The BBC News site is only effectively free for those that don't pay a UK license fee - it's funded from part of that.
    • You can't beat the good old BBC

      I like the BBC, but they don't cover local US politics. They cover lots of important stuff, but I also think it's important to have someone putting my mayor on the spot occasionally....

      --Bruce Fields

    • I assume that BBC has a British, Anglo-centric bias, but that's clear and obvious. I like the US version of the Fiancial Times, just for general news. http://news.ft.com/home/us [ft.com] and I find the "financial" press gives the best coverage of political, non-financial news. The problem with (American) "corporate" news is that the bias isn't made clear, and its hard to untangle sponsorships and ownerships. I think I'd be more apt to watch NBC News if they called themselves "GE Vivendi Universal News," but I don't
    • Not for long. The BBC's charter is under review again and the calls for privatisation that come at such times are just as loud. But the Hutton inquiry did real damage this time, and some politicians smell blood.

      This Sunday Times article [timesonline.co.uk] is a representative overview in the online media about the likelihood of a sale, but a swift Google reveals that some of these arguments have been going on for years.

      Frankly, all public broadcasting and their associated websites are seen as unfair competition by the cor

  • by Cy Guy (56083) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:07AM (#11932175) Homepage Journal
    As long as paper is cheaper than video screens there will be free papers. Case in point, Washing, DC just gained a new free daily The Washington Examiner [dcexaminer.com] in the last month, and within the last two year the Washington Post launched its own freebie paper, The Express [washingtonpost.com].

    They both seem to have viable business models and in fact the Express has already decimated small group of targetted suburban papers that had cost $.35 which have now either gone out print, or or free depending on the suburban county each served. And the Post is finding that its free paper is doing better than it is [dcist.com]. Though I think that growth will slow because of the Examiner which seems closer to a real newspaers (if one only on par to the NY Post or NY News) than the Express which consists entirely of heavily cropped wire stories. The Examiner at least has unique features and few of its own writers - plus it runs in depth wire stories, especially in SPORTS - which with the launch of the Washington Nationals [mlb.com] should 'sell' a lot of free papers.
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:08AM (#11932193) Homepage Journal
    Is the era of free news content about to end?

    No, here in Washington DC in the last year we have seen the launch of 2 free newspapers, dailies in fact. The Post's Express and the Examiner. Add that to the Citypaper and we have three.

    We are quite saturated with free news.
  • Reg free link (Score:3, Informative)

    by bendelo (737558) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:08AM (#11932198) Homepage
    Reg-free link [nytimes.com]
  • by Kimos (859729) <kimos.slashdot@G ... m minus math_god> on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:09AM (#11932201) Homepage
    Every time someone is trying to charge for a service on the internet, another provider will emerge and offer it for free. That free service will inevitably will be viewed more and gain credibility.

    It's the same story. Nothing to see here, move along!
    • There's an old adage saying that capitalism will kill itself when every producer gives their product for free to better competing.

      I think we are reaching that era now (at least for information business).
  • It was just without charge.
  • by Nijika (525558) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:11AM (#11932230) Homepage Journal
    Of the more savvy consumer. I don't think anyone's blind to advertising revenues, and the idea of paying to see ads is getting more and more insulting as time marches on.
  • by asdfasdfasdfasdf (211581) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:11AM (#11932234)
    The amount you pay for a daily newspaper does not even cover the printing and distribution costs. All money made by the paper (and the majority of production costs) is covered by advertising-- print ads and classifieds. The $.25 or $.50 you pay barely covers the paper and ink.

    Web distribution is negligible on daily per-person basis.

    The problem here is the failure of online advertising. Somehow during the dotcom boom "per click" payment became the obsession. It seems on the web "branding" or "product awareness" is no longer valuable. There's no perfectly quantifiable way to tell if these sort of ads work in newspapers or television, but if they're not getting the clicks they want, the advertisers say "web advertising doesn't work!!"

    I think the obvious answer to this is local data, such as google local. Using your ip address to find your locality and serving up neighborhood ads is the only way for this business model to work-- not just advertising pizza hut, but putting pizza hut's local numbers in the ads you see will help.

    But you guys can't have it both ways-- if you block the ads through your browser or your host list, you can't expect free content forever. That's why i don't use anything (other than a popup blocker, of course) to prohibit ads. They are what allow us to consume "free" content.

    Remember that next time you block one of these guys. Or go ahead and pay for that content. Slashdot's business model should lead the way! :-)

    • But you guys can't have it both ways-- if you block the ads through your browser or your host list, you can't expect free content forever. That's why i don't use anything (other than a popup blocker, of course) to prohibit ads. They are what allow us to consume "free" content.

      And exactly how do they tell that you are blocking ads and I am not? Unless you are actively reading those ads, follwing the links and then buying something! then there is really not much difference between you and me as fas as the
    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:41AM (#11932550)
      Using your ip address to find your locality and serving up neighborhood ads is the only way for this business model to work-- not just advertising pizza hut, but putting pizza hut's local numbers in the ads you see will help.

      As always, the porn industry is leading the way in online commerce.

      Very recently I've noticed "Adult Friend Finder" ads are doing this -- the ads say "find women in XXX", where X is a suburb near me ... after freaking for a moment I realised that's where my ISP was.

  • how ironic!

    My favorite way of helping people realize the difference between irony and coincidence is as follows:

    "Irony deals with opposites. Coincidence deals with the same. If a rescue helicopter happened to kill the person they were trying save, that might be a form of irony. The fact you are an idiot, and unable to differenciate between irony and coincidence, my friend, is just a coincidence."
    • Well, technically, coincidence only means 'things that happen together'-- or any occurrence of things which co-incide.

      It became a common usage to talk about things which seemed connected but were not as "mere coincidence", meaning the fact that they happened together only indicated that they happened together, and nothing else. However, this grew into a colloquial use of the word "coincidence", all by itself, to mean "an occurrence of multiple events which seem connected but are not," which is, perhaps, t

    • by nasor (690345)
      Actually, 'irony' is defined as "difference or incongruity between what is expected and what actually is".

      For example, it is indeed ironic that the New York Times is running a story about how a particular business model probably isn't viable, yet uses that very same business model themselves.

      Here's another example: someone who posts a self-important message on slashdot correcting a misuse of the term "ironic," when in fact they are the one who is failing to recognize a legitimate case of irony.
  • What would we do if we wouldn't know all the important news in today's papers? What would we do if we wouldn't know how many people were bombed in Israel today and how many civilians the Israel military shot in response? What would we do if we didn't get the latest voting results from Timbuktu? What would we do if we didn't know of the traveller to Africa who came back with Malaria? What would we do if we couldn't read the latest "scientific" results about what is bad or good for us and how it will affect o
    • I don't want to get dramatic but the real important news (like layoffs in an industry related to our own job e.g.) would spread without the big news sources and most of the rest is the same every day anyway.

      You miss the point. Yes, like old times, the *news* will spread, by various methods. However, what was lacking then, and what would be lacking without big news media, is credibility. We, in general, trust that the NY Times or Washington Post is telling the truth. We trusted Dan Rather, and when we fou
    • What would we do if we wouldn't know all the important news in today's papers? What would we do if we wouldn't know how many people were bombed in Israel

      I was under the impression that the great majority of Americans, and probably many other countries, get most of their news from TV. That's what's killing newspapers, not online competition.

      Personally, I think TV news is a waste of time. I used to read a daily newspaper when I commuted, now I work from home mostly, I only buy the paper on Sundays. I get m

  • this seems to be one of those rare cases when Ireland got there ahead of the US. It's been many years now since either of the country's two most prominent broadsheets offered all their content online for free. Indeed my favoured daily started a subscription service so long ago, that the offer of a webmail account with your subscription was tempting.

    Now I get my news from google and the bbc.
  • Let's take a small survey and find out:

    a) Which do people prefer to read while sitting at their desk in the office -- paper version or online?
    b) Which do people prefer to read during their daily commute -- paper version or online?

    I know what my answer is to both, and they're both different...
  • by Khopesh (112447) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:17AM (#11932305) Homepage Journal
    That's odd; the New York Times just bought [bostonherald.com] half of the Boston Metro [metropoint.com], a freely distributed paper.
  • Sure, if you're the Wall Street Journal. Otherwise, for general news, you're competing against a hundred thousand other news organs. I'm sure they'd all be better off going to a paid subscription model. The problem is, who goes first? That lucky pioneer will see their online subscriber base worse than decimated, and the return on the ad revenue of their advertisers shrink to negligibility, leading to advertiser defections.

    So, to the first paper who takes that bold step towards pay-only, good luck. You're g
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:18AM (#11932318)
    Today, however, The New York Times (free registration required; how ironic!) is running an article that questions the long term viability of that business model.

    Pretty funny, considering the Boston Globe (which is owned by the group that owns the Times) just bought The Metro, a free newspaper distributed on the MBTA (aka the T) public transit system.

  • by duffbeer703 (177751) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:18AM (#11932320)
    The newspapers adopt an Oracle-like pricing model for advertisers (since billions of people CAN see your ad online, we'll charge you $$$ for it to appear there) which hurts them. Their real problem is that newspaper management are old-school newpaper guys who think in terms of the circulation of folded 11x19 sheets.

    That's BS. Papers are advertising-delivery mechanisms, always have been.

    If the papers actually thought about finding ways of putting their "real" paper advertisements (ie. NOT click-thrus) in the online edition, they'd have more effective advertising.

    Alot of people actually pay for papers just for the ads. I often buy the Sunday paper just for the supermarket flyers and department store ads.

  • I pay for an email account through usa.net. I pay because it's worth getting entirely spam free emails that I can check anywhere. (Although, I have to admit free gmail is pretty good too and I'm thinking about changing.)

    I also pay five measly bucks to access www.weatherunderground.com each year. That's works out to about a penny a day. Certainly worth the price.

    The problem with news sites is this: who wants to subscribe to only one? Sure, the far right would sign up to foxnews.com and be done with it
  • I read a lot of magazines and newspapers online. When I'm in the US I buy most of them in paper form (including the NYT every day) but I'm in Europe most of the time and the online versions are the only reasonably fresh way to get the content I want.

    I actually have paid for an online subscription to the New York Review of Books [nybooks.com] but it was a bit pricey.

    What I would like to see is one place where I could pay a single price and select several online content sites to subscribe to. Even if each one has

  • by sthibault (607867)
    Don't you guys see the contradiction in this article? Thier subscriptions are down, thier free readership is up, and they are writing an article about how free news won't work. Doesn't this sound like they are primeing thier online readers for some kind of subscription fee down the road?
  • I Want To Pay!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kmsigel (306018) *
    I have been asking the NYTimes for years now to charge me for access to the online edition in exchange for eliminating the advertising. (Just like what Slashdot does.) I would be happy to pay a dollar a day (yes, $365 a year) for such a service.

    The one reply I got from the NYTimes (supposedly from Martin Nisenholtz himself, the CEO of New York Times Digital at the time) seemed aimed at people who complain about ads but don't offer to pay to subscribe. I explained that I never "click through" on ads and tha
  • by FJCsar (185003) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:33AM (#11932451)
    Take a particular look at this quote from the article:

    "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."

    Is this story anything more than a trial balloon to see how the Web community might react to a pay-for-use system?
  • One thing I've gleaned from years of webbernetting, is that if people *really* want something free, they'll get it for free. Whether it comes down to complaining enough to get news vendors to return their 'product' to a free model (less likely) or moving on to a free source (more likely), there's *always* a free alternative.
  • According to the article,

    "A big part of the motivation for newspapers to charge for their online content is not the revenue it will generate, but the revenue it will save"

    So, in essesence, they are charging so people DON'T use their website (and instead buy the paper), instead of the other way around - brilliant!

  • it will survive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PureCreditor (300490) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:38AM (#11932504)
    even if the companies start charging for news, others will be able to duplicate the same content on their blog sites, thus nullifying the model. also, if only *one* single major news source continues free RSS feeds, the ones who charge will loose readership (unless they're significantly more credible than others, say, A.P.)

    Sites can charge for *premium* content, like special features. but for regular headline news, free will be the way to go for quite some time to come
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:55AM (#11932710)
    I think all the model suck in some way so that no single model will ever dominate.
    1. Ad-Supported Model: Consumers get the content for free as long as they are willing to watch & click-through enough ads. Sucks because people hate/block/avoid ads (insufficient revenues), although Google might make this work.
    2. BBC Model: An annual government tax on PCs is used to fund a quasi-independent news gathering organization. Sucks because it adds a tax, will never happen in the U.S. (due to freedom of the press and government non-compete issues), but it could happen in the UK.
    3. a la Carte Model: Every content creator charges their own subcription. Sucks if you want to read more than one source.
    4. Flat-Rate Integrator Model: A subscriber pays a monthly subscription for all the news/content aggregated by a given company (AOL, Yahoo, Google?). Sucks because snooty brand-conscious content providers (NYT, WSJ, etc.) will never join an aggregator -- they will prefer to force people to pay separate subscriptions for separate content sources.
    5. Micopayment Model: A subscriber pays-per-view, the charge showing up on their monthly ISP/cellphone/credit card bill. Sucks because the cost of admin and dealing with disputed charges wipes out most of the revenues. Sucks because people hate being nickled and dimed to death.
    I guess we will see which sucky model gets adopted. I suspect they all will with ad-supported and a la carte being more common than the others.
  • Cartel Needed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drooling-dog (189103) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:55AM (#11932712)
    Whether the business model is good or not, it's going to be hard for the NYT or anyone else to charge for content unless everybody does. Otherwise, people will flock to the free content and online papers like the NYT will lose advertising revenue. So, they'd better start putting their cartel together ASAP.

    Online news outlets have had problems supporting themselves with ad revenues (as the paper editions have always done), but that's largely their own fault. Nobody ever expects that readers will throw down the print edition of a newspaper and run off to respond to an ad, but that's exactly what advertisers seem to expect with Web ads. So, they've made them increasingly intrusive and obnoxious, insisting that everyone take notice regardless of interest or relevance. So, the public responded with ad-blocking. If ads in the print version slapped me in the face every time I opened the paper, I'd stop reading it (or at least wear a face mask) too...

  • According to the article they have more-or-less had about 1.1 million print readers since 1993.

    All I see is a greater circulation now that they have an extra 1.4 million online readers.

    Nowhere do I see them saying they have LOST print subscribers.

    The weight of assumption is too great to claim that those online readers would have otherwise bought the print version - just like assuming people who downloaded free albums from Napster would have bought the CD.

    Bottom line = this is 100% additional exposure for NYT, and perhaps other papers like it.
  • HAH! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by borgheron (172546) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:09PM (#11934398) Homepage Journal
    Yeah right. This "end" has been heralded several times before and it's never happened.

    GJC
  • Where's the irony? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekee (591277) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:40PM (#11934745)
    So is the irony that they require registration, or that the registration is free? The registration part is not ironic since it is a step in the direction they are warning about, no more free news. The fact that it's now free is not ironic since the fact that they're making you register means you're not really getting the news for free. The info you provide has value to the New York Times. Whether or not they can cash in in directly for revenue or not, I don't know.
  • by Trix (5592) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:48PM (#11934840) Homepage
    Let's look at the business model. Where do newpaper revenues come from? Subscribers? No. Advertisers. The only reason that newspapers charge for their paper editions is protect against the age old assumption that if it's free, it must be worthless.

    Every newspaper in the country could give away their print editions and still make money.

    The "news business" is not now, nor has it ever been, about bringing you the news. It has always been about selling advertisements.

    Just because a business provides something that is of use to one set of customers does not mean that that customer base is their primary concern.

    The big reason that papers want to keep you, the reader happy, is so they can sell you to more advertisers.

  • by stonedonkey (416096) on Monday March 14, 2005 @09:15PM (#11939271)
    If the 'Net as a whole gravitates towards pay content, it will not happen overnight. People have gotten used to getting all kinds of stuff for free for so long (email, web hosting, image hosting, personal portals, et cetera) that it causes an unholy uproar every time you dare to put a price tag on something. Speaking as someone who writes for a news outlet with a little under 100k subscriptions, I can tell you that this is why the online subscription model has been so slow to evolve.

    And not only do you create an uproar, but there's always someone on the 'Net who's (1) willing to survive on a threadbare advertising-based margin for the sake of indie glory, or (2) a freebie-dishing moron who will crash and burn in a blaze of glory, but not before he's induldged the masses with months of Free Stuff that a sustainable business could not hope to afford.

    The more fundamental problem here is that the 'Net is inherently an information resource with a deep basis in the belief of freedom of information and a right to privacy. It began as a network of universities exchanging research data, and it continues as a global village of topics ad nauseum. Good luck trying to make people pay for something when they can get a reasonly close approximation by simply entering a different URL. This is the beauty and the curse of online business. You're easily accessible, but so is everyone else, forcing the provider to make a huge content proposition just to get their foot in the door with the customer. For a news outlet, it's the amount and quality of stories you can put up. For a reseller, it's the size of your inventory and the ease of navigation. For a search engine, it's the speed and accuracy of your results, among other things. And so forth.

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