The Gray Lady is starting to charge for her services – is it the last straw for free access?

In the end, executives decided on a tiered plan, one that would allow visitors to read 20 articles a month at no charge before being asked to select one of three subscription models: $15 every four weeks for access to the Web site and a mobile phone app (or $195 for a full year); $20 for Web access and an iPad app ($260 a year); or $35 for an all-access plan ($455 a year).

Only the New York Times and the Guardian would lay out their internal agonies so totally over building a pay wall. While the NY Times has surrendered, The Guardian guards her virginity, as ex-editor Peter Preston explains – and for  for one oddly overlooked reason. Such profits are there are will continue to flow mainly from hard copy.

..paywalls or no paywalls, complex formulas or no formula at all, the health and survival of the newspaper industry for the foreseeable future still rests on dead forests, not live wires.

The Economist underlines a time- honoured truth  of the market , that people are prepared to pay for what they value.  

The web is great—but it is great not so much as a source of revenue but as a cheap way of attracting paying subscribers. It’s a shop window, not a business. Heavy users get the requests for money because they are most likely to become subscribers. 

 As the fictional news executive was wont to say to his proprietor: “Up to a point Lord Copper.” It’s hard to believe that many of tomorrow’s browsing public will resemble that little old Canadian lady who kept sending the NY Times cheques, believing that free access was  too good to be true.



Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London