Starting today, the Gray Lady is watching and counting. Twenty free articles a month and then at least $15/month. The Times is an excellent newspaper, probably not as good as it was a few decades ago, but still very good. It’s my homepage, I read it regularly, I enjoy it, but unlike Jack Shafer, I will change my reading habits to avoid paying.
Shafer describes the current New York Times website as free. Only if he is using his employer’s internet service or someone’s wireless signal. I pay about $70 a month for internet service (including unlimited iPad 3G service). Of course my internet service providers, Comcast and AT&T, don’t pass along any of my $70 to the New York Times, so I’ll grant Shafer his point that Times writers deserve more support than web hits and associated ad revenues generate.
The problem though is that instead of partnering with other major internet news sites, the Times is making this leap solo. There are too many free substitutes of near comparable quality. I’ve never understood the bottled water craze given the quality of tap water in the U.S. I will read the Los Angeles Times, Slate Magazine, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and the free Economist and New Yorker content more. And I’ll visit the BBC and NPR websites more.
It will be interesting to see what percentage of on-line Times readers cough up for unlimited on-line access. I heard a journalism business analyst say the Times needs 1% of it’s on-line visitors to begin paying for the experiment to be a success. If that’s true, expect to see other periodicals follow suit relatively soon. Then, thank Shafer, not me, for the “bottled water” era of internet news.