On Thursday I received an Email from the New York Times or more specifically its publisher announcing that from March 28 I would have to pay to read its content beyond an allowed 20 articles per month.
I have already experienced this with the Financial Times where I am now similarly restricted to how much of their content I can read per month.
I am not unsympathetic – they are a business not a charity, their writers and other contributors need to be paid and I understand that ad-supported content can only support an online journal so far. But I am also a consumer on a budget with the ostensibly no brainer decision of choosing between content I can get for free and similar content for a fee.
Why would I and any other consumer pay for content in this context?
State taxation funded media such as the BBC in the UK is a huge provider of free and trusted online content – when presented with such content the idea that many readers will get out their credit cards and go in search of similar content from a private competitor is stretching credulity.
What can they provide that is value added? Perhaps specialized content?
But even here specialists are still competing with other specialists that provide similar content for free – New Scientist use to offer a lot of their content for free now they restrict what can be seen – I used to pay for their print journal so was not averse to paying for it in digital form – that is until I happened across Scientific American which offers me similar content for free. So I never did subscribe to the New Scientist nor have I yet to have paid a penny for the FT and am doubtful I will be paying a cent for the New York Times either.
As well as a reader of content I am also a producer with this blog and all of it is available to read for free for any of you that should happen to stumble upon it, this one blog in a sea of blogs – certainly as an unknown writer I am in no position to charge for others to read this content – this blog would be even less read than it is now.
If then a journal is well known, well respected, well loved can it expect that its readers will pay to read its content? For the New York Times would I pay to read the articles of writers I admire such as Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd.
I think the payment structure has to be pretty micro – this in itself is still a reasonable business proposition – content is much cheaper to produce online and the potential readership much larger so even small payments would soon add up.
I wonder even a model practiced by some software providers with donate ware – you can read the content for free but if you liked what you read you can make a donation of whatever size on the content page.
So content costs but will it pay? You can watch this space – but at what price?!