Pay walls, strategy and content…

Yesterday’s New York Times’ announcement has solidified a few things in my head.

Here goes…

1. I need to get this one out of the way first, what type of long-term, strategic planning is going on in the New York Times Co that it got rid of NYT Select three years ago and the more than 220,000 subscribers that went with it only to introduce a new pay model now. I understand there are differences between the two models but it would have made for a nice customer base to start off with.

More importantly though, this indecisiveness about whether online content should or should not be paid for is becoming more confusing to the consumer by the day. This is not helping the industry in the long run.  It is good NYT has decided their content, be it in print or online, has value that should paid for, I just wish they had decided earlier and stuck to it. Trends in advertising, while of course important, should not be the determining factor as they may have been with the Select decision.

2. With that out of the way, I think it is good that it is not a straight pay wall. Although metering could just lead to reduced news consumption by readers (and generally if this was to be replicated across the industry), I would rather have fewer readers and more revenue than the unsustainable position of lots of readers and no revenue.

3. Now is a time of survival for newspapers/organisations – they have to try and hang on – by whatever means necessary. Given the changes in the industry, there are clearly too many newspapers and the economics of content have changed. Those who manage to survive the next decade will emerge with less competition from established media organisations – giving them a privileged and potentially profitable position.

4. This is not a carte blanche to over-zealous, money counting publishers. You need to invest to get good content that is worthy of a pay wall. It should be something people have to read and value as the only reliable source in town. Good quality, well investigated and reported journalism that people can depend upon will be the scarce, but in-demand commodity.

Of course I am sure some of these arguments were heard back when TV news emerged and will be rolled out for any subsequent innovations but I strongly believe people have been placing too much emphasis on the platform as the commodity not the content. Spare it another thought.


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