Big News in News – Money

Meter

The big news in news this week is that the NY Times finally announced the implementation of its pay wall – a year from now. The extra year, says David Carr, helps the blow land “with some authority but not much impact”.  The model will be a metered one, where consumers get a certain amount of content for free, and then the meter starts to tick away. “By building a metered system,” says Carr “the executives have installed a dial on the huge, heaving content machine of The New York Times.”  And there’s the rub.  We think of newspapers as content machines, but they’ve been looking at themselves as distribution machines.  Big mistake these days – after all, that kind of thinking is what did in the music industry.  By getting rid of the huge, heaving distribution process of printing and sending physical newspapers, the content becomes the real issue – which, indeed, it is. 

So far, there has been no mention of how many stories a reader will get before the meter kicks in, or how much that meter will be charging.

The new system is a “have cake/eat cake” one, says Peter Kafka in MediaMemo, much like that employed by the financial Times, the Wall Street Journal,  Consumer Reports and several other media entities. The strategy is to “[g]enerate as big an audience as possible to sell to advertisers while extracting a second revenue stream from hard-core readers.”  In good advertising times, the ads are a good source of revenue, and in bad advertising times, the readers generate the revenue. 

Of course the big question will be how many of the Times’ current readers will stick with it once they have to pay for content. But the pay wall was inevitable, and its time is now – or next year.

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