I’m a big fan of Jeff Jarvis and his blog Buzz Machine and I tend to agree with a lot of what he has to say in his coverage of the media biz, but I think he’s got the New York Times decision to charge readers a bit wrong.
He lays out a good case about why their system of metering is backwards (charging the most loyal, repeat readers the most) but then goes a bit off the rails when laying out the case for why they’re charging.
I’ll (attempt to) refute this rationale point-by-point (I’m in italics)…
From Buzz Machine:
So why would The Times charge? There are a few possible reasons:
* It has failed at advertising, as I said of News Corp. recently.
it has not totally failed in advertising, in fact they are selling out the “front page” newyorktimes.com quite often, its just that online ads haven’t recouped costs yet.
* Its costs are too high — and rather than cutting them into a rational business, it desperately seeks some other revenue.
its costs are high, but let’s not pretend the Times hasn’t been cutting back substantially along with everyone else in newspaperland. I know the names of more ex-staffers than current ones.
* It is falling prey to PR, to the pressure of outsiders who keep nattering on about charging.
actually, I don’t believe it’s PR they are paying attention to, rather the positive example set by the FT, their British counterpart, which currently boasts a somewhat successful conversion to a paid model.
* It has forgotten its own lessons with TimesSelect sees amnesia as a strategy.
to bring up TimesSelect at this point is kind of like saying Coca Cola shouldn’t innovate new soft drinks because of the New Coke s%$#-show. A lot has changed and evolved since TimesSelect.
Why do I think they’ve finally decided to charge then, if not for the reasons above? Maybe a few of the Ochs-Sulzberger clan just saw the new HBO update of Grey Gardens and they’ve determined not to go out like Big and Little Edith Beale, living off a shrinking trust account while playing host to stray cats and raccoons in their crumbling mansions, shoveling ice cream into their inheritance-dependent rictus masks. OK, that was a bit much, I’d say its probably because of the FT example I cited above.
Anyway, I love getting the Times content for free, but frankly, I would pay reasonably for it if I have to, it really is the paper of record, even online.
While I agree with Jarvis on the metering mess (which I predict they will not adopt), I don’t begrudge the Times its right to get money. When you’re the best at something, you really ought to be paid something for it, even if you lose a few customers who got used to taking advantage of your greatness for nothing.
Jeff, I’m really outside my sandbox on this topic, so if I’ve missed anything, feel free to point it out.