By Harry McCracken | Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm
Bloomberg is reporting that the New York Times is considering instituting a $5 a month fee for access to its Web site. At least that’s what it’s telling folks who take a survey it’s currently fielding.
Like every other venerable publication on the planet, the Times is figuring out how to fund its content and turn a profit in the Web era, so it’s no surprise that it’s tossing out ideas to readers and seeing how they fare. Most current discussion of making online readers pay revolves around micropayments for specific articles, so it’s intriguing to see the Times toy with the idea of a low flat monthly fee.
The Times’ last experiment with paid content was the short-lived TimesSelect, a $50-a-year service that provided access to opinion columns, the archives of past stories, and a few other features; most of the site remained free. It went away in 2007, and was probably doomed to fail from the start, in part because it was sort of like a good restaurant giving away 90% of the items on its menu for free and charging for just a few. If you could get chicken marsala for free, would you pay for lamb chops?
If the Times were to institute the $5 fee for everything, its traffic would crater. Presumably it would only gate off the site if this survey and other research left it confident that a huge number of folks would pay $60 a year to get All the News That’s Fit to Print.
Me, I’d do it in a heartbeat–I read multiple Times stories every day, so the cost would work out to pennies an article. And I like the idea of making a monetary contribution to the paper’s site’s long-term well-being. I cheerfully admit that I’m in the media biz myself and my take is therefore not necessarily representative.
How about you?