Tags: N.Y. | Times | Considers | Charging | for | Web

N.Y. Times Considers Charging for Web

Monday, 14 March 2005 12:00 AM

In January, daily unique visits of 1.4 million to The New York Times on the Web surpassed daily print runs of 1.124 million (daily print editions peaked at 1.176 million in 1993).

Though the Times has noted a strong increase in Web-based advertising revenue, executives say that revenue comes nowhere near print revenues.

Web-based advertising accounts for only 2 to 3 percent of an average paper's revenue, though it is the fastest-growing income stream.

The paper said a decision to charge for the web site will be made soon. If the Times does charge, it will become only the second national paper to do so.

The Wall Street Journal charges readers $79 a year for online access, a fee which slides to $39 a year if the reader is already a print edition subscriber.

And while many of the nation's 1,456 dailies that do publish online versions decry giving away content for free, they have so far refused to force readers to dig into their wallets for Internet-based news.

To do so, many fear, will simply drive their readers somewhere else, where content remains gratis.

Having said that, some do charge for a few services, often known as "premium content," but offer the bulk of content free-of-charge.

What is happening at the Times is reflective of what is also going on at other major dailies.

Some have embarked on experimental programs, charging for access to a portion of online content. But so far many have failed to inspire.

For instance, the Los Angeles Times charges $4.95 a month for access to its "Calendar Live" section, but traffic has decreased so much that its execs are considering dropping the charge altogether, the Times reported.

The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, features a "subscriber advantage" program which allows print subscribers free archives access, as well as other perks. "It's an interesting first step to see how people react in trying to differentiate between the two products," Alison Scholly, general manager of Chicago Tribune Interactive, told the Times.

And while the solid growth of online advertising revenue is one bright spot, it still bothers publishers to not be able to charge for news featured online, say industry analysts.

"For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free," Colby Atwood, vice president of Borrell Associates Inc., a media research firm, told the Times.

Adds Frederick W. Searby, an advertising and publishing analyst at J. P. Morgan., "Newspapers are cannibalizing themselves."

Yet it's that same resentment that is keeping them from charging for content. Most realize it is pointless to charge for national and international news, for instance, because readers can go to so many other places to find it for free, said the Times.

Still, online newspaper executives are looking at ways to create or boost additional revenue streams from readers, either in a bid to raise capital or keep from spending it.

"A big part of the motivation for newspapers to charge for their online content is not the revenue it will generate, but the revenue it will save, by slowing the erosion of their print subscriptions," Atwood told the Times. "We're in the midst of a long and painful transition."

Says Times executive editor Bill Keller, regarding the sole reliance of online advertising for revenue: "My main concern is that, however we distribute our work, we have to generate the money to pay for it. The advertising model looks appealing now, but do we want our future to depend on that single source of revenue? What happens if advertising goes flat? What happens when somebody develops software to filter out advertising – TiVo for the Web?"

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In January, daily unique visits of 1.4 million to The New York Times on the Web surpassed daily print runs of 1.124 million (daily print editions peaked at 1.176 million in 1993). Though the Times has noted a strong increase in Web-based advertising revenue, executives say...
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2005-00-14
Monday, 14 March 2005 12:00 AM
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