Would You Pay $5 a Month for the New York Times?

By  |  Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm

New York Times LogoBloomberg 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?


Read more: 

15 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Barnes Says:

    Not a chance.
    I can get (will get) my news somewhere else.
    I will pay micropayments ($0.015 per article), but not a subscription.

  2. Evan Says:

    I voted definitely not. I understand the need to make a profit, but the Times is a site I only visit on occasion. I would pay a couple of dollars a month for a newspaper site I visit regularly, like Philly.com which I visit every day for sports (shhh, don’t tell them that). So I guess I vote yes to the concept, but no to this specific paper.

    A smarter move, if technologically possible, would be to allow a visitor to see a certain number of pages for free, after which the visitor would need to pay to continue. Otherwise, these sites are going to drive away the casual visitors, and stunt any growth they may have.

  3. no Says:

    With all the news sources available to me for free, I probably wouldn’t bother to read the NYT even if it was $0. Not that I have anything against the NYT. But again, even at zero cost, there’s enough competition that I just wouldn’t even think of bothering to go out of my way to read it or anything on it.

  4. chris Says:

    I say “yes”. nytimes is the well from which much news is sprung. All other “news” is a parrot of nytimes.

  5. Mark A. O'Deady Says:

    I would definitely pay $5 a month for the New York Times, but probably not for the now enormously downsized Mercury News or the shrinking San Francisco Chronicle. Here in the northwest we lost the dead tree edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the short-staffed online version of the P-I is struggling against fierce competition from the Seattle Times (only a fraction of the Pulitzer Prize winning paper it once was) and some great online start-ups (check out http://crosscut.com/).

    Then again, some of us never got the newsprint off our hands and still have ink running through our veins… Online or Dead Tree, the very survival of our republic rests in the hands of the Fourth Estate and we have a duty as citizens to keep it alive and remain well informed and FREE. $60 a year seems a cheap price to pay for freedom.

  6. David P. Says:

    Go ahead, NYT, try your $5 charge and see how the market responds. I haven’t read a NYT article in a long time myself, so $5 is definitely not worth it to me. Referring sites like digg and reddit will steer away from the NYT if it is subscriber only. Like the music industry, the newspaper industry is trying to figure out how to make money on the internet while their old business model is fading away, but they have to be careful not to price themselves out of the market.

  7. Level1Alt Says:

    Nope, i get all my news on ESPN =)

  8. Lou Hoffman Says:

    I put five bucks per month for the NYT in the same category as a $1.75 sandwich at Dakao’s, one of the country’s great bargains.

    With that said, it’s tough if not impossible to ask people weaned on free stuff to pay for the same stuff.

  9. BW Says:

    They’d have to pay me to read the NYT these days — and far more than $5.

  10. dale johnson Says:

    if you want to charge give us a better product that nobody else has. sadly the NYT rarely does that for me

  11. Marc Says:

    As a Brit, obviously the answer is no (it’s a foreign paper, not that reliant to me) – but would I pay for one our of equivalent UK papers? Probably yes, but I’d rather pay on a “pay as you go” basis, per day. The site takes my credit card details, and then charges me a small fee for a days access. Say 40 pence or so.

    A decent newspaper here is about 90p, which is about £20 a month (excluding weekends, they cost about £2) so $5 a month is pretty reasonable to me. I would object to being tied into it, as inevitably I would not visit the site every day.

  12. Marc Says:

    dale I agree about going elsewhere. Charging for content is a bit like a no-smoking bars. Fine if all bars are no smoking, but while they’re a minority they people won’t go.

  13. Jim Says:

    The bottom line is that there will ALWAYS be places to go online for free news (from domestic or foreign sources). And as such, I will read the free news. Think about it. The reason online advertising doesn’t pay much is because the material it’s posted with is available in so many places. If all the main news outlets start to charge, the little guys (that don’t charge) will then get more viewers and thus more advertising dollars. This will solidify the success of free news – not eliminate it.

    The old print news model is dead, but some thick-heads refuse to smell the coffee. Fine! Denial is not enough to save them from the fate of the dinosaurs – you’ll see…

  14. Mark A. O'Deady Says:

    Jim — Naturally, there will always be FREE alternatives. That was true when the newspaper industry was flourishing. The problem here is a matter of how the industry pays reporters and editors to gather, write, and in the online world, post “All the News that’s Fit to Post”.

    The traditional model is broken, but it doesn’t change the fact that most intelligent, educated citizens want accurate, timely news, opinion, etc. The NY Times is not the great newspaper it once was, but it is still better than most, and while they make mistakes from time to time, they are able to maintain a great reputation for accuracy and integrity because they admit to their mistakes (sometimes in 72pt type on the front page).

    My greatest concern revolves around the fact that it cost big bucks to reliably gather, write and edit news and without the resources of the NY Times, Washington Post, etc. the Watergate break-in would have been a one-day story that was buried on page 23 of the local section… Watergate is, of course, a once-in-a-lifetime story, but there are dozens of important investigative stories in every town, village, and city that isn’t being covered because advertising and circulation revenues are plummeting. Who’s going to dig for those stories when they don’t “pan out” right away? Watergate began with what appeared to be an insignificant office break-in in 1972 and didn’t really blossom into a huge international story until late 1973 or early 1974. Nixon resigned as a direct result in August 1974!

  15. Dale Dietrich Says:

    Didn’t the NYT already go through this phase and come out the other side abandoning the pay model?

    If micropayments ever became reality I’d pay 5 or 10 cents per article perhaps.

    All I read regularly on the NYT is Tom Friedman’s tri-weekly column. It’s not worth $5 a month but am certainly happy I can get it again for free after a year or so with it hidden behind the NYT walled-garden.


1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Bold step as New York Times charges for content « No free lunch Says:

    […] my kind of fight Bold step as New York Times charges for content July 10, 2009 Great news that the New York Times is to start charging for content.  Somebody has to be the first to go, and […]