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.

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  • Banjaxed

    Steig,
    I believe Belfast Met College of FE offer very good classes in TOEFL. Might good do you some!
    =========================

    As a former purchaser of the Guardian, but still an avid reader on the net, I now buy it only on Saturday for the reviews, etc. However, if I HAD to pay, I would. I can take pot luck with the rest of the dailies, most of which I’m happy with a few heads and op eds. I have to admit that I think the financing of its web pages seem crazy to me given that one can read virtually the whole newspaper for nothing. But, why look a gift horse….

    Nonetheless, if I had to pay, it might help me get rid of ALL my guilt as the purchasing of the paper on Saturday only partially salves it!

  • joeCanuck

    Just for info: The Gray Lady, a nickname for The New York Times newspaper, in reference to its tradition of presenting many words and few pictures.

  • perseus

    phew thanx joe,
    in reverse “Lady Grey” is of course a very posh tea-bag 😉

  • Cynic2

    Grey Lady ……..I thought it was Iris and was intrigued by the headline!

    Must get out more

  • andnowwhat

    I get that guilt too Banjaxed.

    I read the Guardian and Indy online. If they were Murdoch produce, I wouldn’t bat an eye.

    I like the “I”, a smart move by the Indy. I can’t afford to buy either daily but I get the “I” when I can get my hands on it (my local shop doesn’t stock it. Oddly enough, it does stock a remarkable amount of porn which always makes me wonder who pops in for 20 fags, a pint of milk and a jazz mag)

  • Eamonn McCann once said his da used to buy the D Express to learn the truth; he supposed the Express printed only the polar opposite of the truth.
    I do not know an Irish paper worth anything more than a free bar read though I occasionally look at the SB Post and (S)Indo on line. The D Telegraph is far and away the best quality broadsheet in these islands even if The Guardian outpaced in online.
    But readers are changing and the type of people who would read and pay for a quality broadsheet are decreasing. We have 24/7 news/sport and all most people want is page 3 and celebrity gossip. The Telegraph has a few interesting sidelines in luxury cruises and mail order shopping. Realistically the nature of the beast has changed and much of the broadsheet market has been lost to internet alternatives, price hikes and the dumbing down of the people of Ireland and Britain complements of our social engineers.

  • New Yorker

    I don’t agree with the subscription policy of the NYT. They have a history of mistakes in regard to the internet; it took several tries until they fot their present website up to standard. Their op-ed writers will probably have much less in readership and influence. There are rumors that the London Times subscription policy is not very successful in terms of paying readers.

    It is difficult to believe that web editions of major papers cannot be supported by advertising. The top ad people only really know hard-copy and have sold management on the line that they cannot get more advertisers because it is the internet. They should get advertising managers who know how to be successful selling advertising on the internet rather than swallow the excuses of the old hard-copy ad guys.

  • New Yorker: Online advertising works. Just ask Google. It might be the old format is dying.
    Aas regards papers of record: I guess the world is moving much too fast for that. I know guys from the Chicago Tribune had to produce copy almost like factory workers: so much an hour.
    The days of high quality content are gone. Murdoch paved the way and the mainstream Internet does not do high quality.

  • Cynic2

    “If they were Murdoch produce, I wouldn’t bat an eye”

    You have a conscience about reading the product of one of the biggest tax avoiders in the UK? A ‘socialist’ paper that supported the most reactionary and incompetent Governments we had in the last 100 years, That campaigned for the return tyo power of Gordon Brown and his coterie of yes men and women?

  • New Yorker

    Alan Maskey

    The old format of advertising may be dying, but is it necessary or due to the laziness of ad managers and a supine management? If you have the readership I cannot see why ads cannot be sold for the web edition. I’ve never heard a solid reason why except that it dosen’t work on the internet, but many other sites people read (not search) support themselves with ads.