Even though I’m a couple weeks late with talking about the New York Times decision to end the Premium paid content section (TimesSelect), it’s very worth noting. If you remember Andrew Keen, and the blogger discussion at the UCLA festival of books, and the debate sparked from his book “The Cult of the Amateur”, you might remember that Keen’s central thesis was, as I paraphrased back then, “The only possible model for online content is one that pays financial dividends.” And he believes the best route for gaining dividends is through making people pay for content. My response was that he should be patient – over time, as the internet grows, advertising (rather than subscriptions) will be able to fund online content. It seems that less than a year later his theory has been dealt a major blow by this New York Times action. The NYT said they were stepping away from the subscriber model for a number of reasons, but the essence is that they could make more money through advertising than they could make through charging readers. Sure, the NYT is only one paper, but it’s our national paper, if we can be said to have a national paper, and since their site receives much more online traffic than any other newspaper in the country, they are the vanguard for the new conception of online financial policy. So, here goes: Yes to free content.
For a broader perspective than just the NYT, check out this article on the Financial Times. Also, in the NYT piece above, it mentioned how the Wall Street Journal is even considering relaxing its subscription policy.