Newspaper or Viewspaper? Advertising or Editorial? The blurring of categories.
Maira Kalman. From Times Select.
THE ONLINE REVENUE HUNT CONTINUES
Today I feel the kind of pain and indignation that early adopters of the i-Phone must have felt. After about a year of paying $US7 a month to read the thin and tentative Times Select service to extract a few gems—guest columns by Maira Kalman, Steven Johnson and Michael Pollan and access to the archive without having to pay about $US4 to retrieve a story—I received an e-mail this morning informing me that Times Select was discontinued today. Why the change?
Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.
We welcome all online readers to enjoy the popular and powerful voices that have defined Times commentary – Maureen Dowd, Thomas L. Friedman, Frank Rich, Gail Collins, Paul Krugman, David Brooks, Bob Herbert, Nicholas D. Kristof and Roger Cohen. And we invite them to become acquainted with our exclusive online journalism – columns by Stanley Fish, Maira Kalman, Dick Cavett and Judith Warner; the Opinionator blog; and guest forums by scientists, musicians and soldiers on the frontlines in Iraq. All this will now reach a broader audience in the United States and around the world.
The salve or booby prize being offered is limited access to another service that seems as tenuous as TimesSelect, the Times Reader which apes the appearance of the physical newspaper. “It is normally offered for $169 annually, and is free to Home Delivery subscribers. (Please note that Times Reader is available for Windows only, though a version for Macintosh is planned.) For the duration of this complimentary offer (through Dec. 31, 2007), you also have access to our Premium Crosswords as well as the full online Archive, back to 1851 (100 articles per month).” I have the feeling of having been sucker-punched. And due to a “database upgrade” I can’t, for the moment, even access the stories I used to have to pay to read. And the crossword requires additional software in order to run on my computer.
In a story in The New York Times, the failure of Times Select has been attributed to the fact that many readers came in behind the firewall, through permalinks within blogs and from feeds, rather than from the paper’s home page. “These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue. “What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others,” said Vivian L. Schiller, the site’s manager.” A Reuters report quotes Rupert Murdoch as having similar thoughts about removing the $US99 per year subscription fee for The Wall Street Journal’s website.
Online is a savage world. A couple of months ago the Simon Kelner, the Editor-in-Chief of English newspaper The Independent told the UK Press Gazette that the website must come second. “Kelner also said the economics of newspapers were ‘fundamentally flawed’ and that he didn’t see the advertising market improving. “If you have an exclusive story at five o’clock to go in the following day’s newspaper, the idea that you would put it on the website for nothing strikes me as complete madness. Our relationship with our own website is one where the paper is first and foremost, and the website comes second. Until there is a model for making money out of a newspaper website, we’re not going to plough millions of pounds into it.” “
Simon Kelner created a more “compact” tabloid edition of The Indepent to save on newsprint costs, and has strong concepts for raising revenue and making newspapers more relevant. In an interview with Evening Standard journalist David Rowan he talked about raising the cover price of newspapers (although he doesn’t want to be the first one to do this). “We sell our product far too cheaply, and cover prices have got to go up. A daily paper should be a pound, a Saturday and a Sunday quality paper should be heading up to £2.That’s when the economics change, and you can put more investment in the journalism and be less at the mercy of the vagaries of the advertising market.”