The cockeyed economics of metering reading

The irony of the report that The New York Times is going to start metering readers and charging those who come back more often is this: They would would end up charging — and, they should fear, sending away — the readers who are worth the most while serving free those who are worth least.

That’s according to the math of News Corp., which argues that readers who come via links from search and aggregators and bloggers and such are worthless because they’re not local and they don’t stay; they’re one-click-wonders. The readers who come back again and again, the ones you know more about and can rely on and target better and build relationships with, goes this logic, are worth more. And News Corp. is also threatening to charge them.

So why charge your best customers? Why single them out? Why risk driving them away?

The logic eludes me. So do the economics.

I know, the argument is that these readers use the content more so they should be charged more. But that is based on the assumption that content is a consumable, a scarcity that drains the more it is read. Of course, it isn’t. Content is, instead, a magnet that can create relationships of value; whether that happens is up to the creator of the content and the quality of service and relevance is gives. That, dare I repeat it, is the basis of the link economy.

But note the verb that started off the paragraph above: should. Readers who read more should pay more. This is the product of journalism’s sense of entitlement.

So why would The Times charge? There are a few possible reasons:

* It has failed at advertising, as I said of News Corp. recently.

* Its costs are too high — and rather than cutting them into a rational business, it desperately seeks some other revenue.

* It is falling prey to PR, to the pressure of outsiders who keep nattering on about charging.

* It has forgotten its own lessons with TimesSelect sees amnesia as a strategy.

I think the risks are great and grave. The Times could have fought to become the preeminent news brand on earth, fighting it out with the BBC for that title. Instead, I fear, it will duck into its shell as the Washington Post has.

I already pay for The Times at home. I hope they would not charge me again. If they do, I will cancel the paper. If they charge me for using the paper more, I will use it less.** I will find other very good substitutes for much of what I get from it — indeed, this will push me to discover and curate new sources. I will read what matters most to me from The Times and discover just how much that is — a calculation the paper should not want to force me to make, not when there is so much new and good competition out there.

Clay Shirky has ridiculed micropayments, saying that we don’t like being nickel-and-dimed. I’ll ridicule metering, reminding those who contemplate it to remember what we think of meter maids. We curse them.

There is only one thing that can happen should The TImes put a meter on us. It will shrink.

** I should expand on this point. I would not use The Times less because I like it less, because I want to punish it. I love The Times. I read it every day. What I’m saying is that by metering, The Times will have me make a new economic decision every time I want to read a story: Is this unique content I will get only here (there is a good deal of that) or is this commodity information I can get elsewhere (BBC, Reuters, Washington Post, Politico, TechCrunch…). The Times then restricts our relationship and it is in that relationship that it has to find value.

  • http://www.annrbrocklehurst.com AnnB

    “So why charge your best customers?”

    Are they really customers if they don’t actually buy anything.

    • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

      No, they’re not.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Ann,
      If you make money thanks to them, of course, they are.

      • http://www.subhub.com Evan Rudowski

        But Jeff, clearly the Times is not making enough money thanks to these non-paying “customers.” We all seem to agree on that.

        So while it’s easy to explain why metering won’t work, can you or anyone here propose what will work? Advertising isn’t working, and The New York Times needs to sustain itself.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          I’ve said they must look at the cost side, both in terms of cutting and in terms of finding new efficiency and value through curation and collaboration.

      • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

        iPhone app developers make money “thanks to” Apple, because without Apple there wouldn’t be a platform for their apps. Does that make Apple their customer?

        Of course not. The idea that anyone everyone in the value chain of what you’re selling is “a customer” is, to be honest, ludicrous. Well-targeted audiences are vital to the proposition you’re selling as a publisher, but those audiences aren’t customers unless they’re buying what you sell.

        Of course, as journalists, in order to maximise the overall value we contribute, we have to forget that they aren’t customers – we write for them, not advertisers. But the business of journalists is not the same as the business of publishers, something that again and again you fail to grasp.

      • http://flyonthenews.com Stefan Arnold

        If people come to your Web site and click one ad, you make money. By using a paywall, you are driving some (I’ll wager many) readers away. The Times is making an active decision to have less readers. That can’t be good in the long run.

      • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

        @stefan:

        “If people come to your Web site and click one ad, you make money. ”

        Not enough to pay for the cost of creating the story plus the cost of serving the page. Plus, as you know nothing about that person, the CPM for it will be low, so you won’t make much from that.

  • Arthur Rest

    As usual Jeff, you are right on the mark. Metered reading and the total Murdoch approach will drive away more and more of the newspaper customer base. The end result is that only a few newspaper organizations will survive. I listen to TWIG every week. Keep up the good work.

    • lisa

      Would you pay to see pictures of Haiti? Or video footage of the bedlam. Probably not, because you’re live is not enriched by the disaster. Yet it is extremely important that journalists continue to cover disasters/wars etc that are unpopular. How do we pay for those – surely News Corp is thinking of a Sky distribution style platform – you pay a monthly subscription to get an a la carte menu of titles – so you can subscribe to foreign news, for want of a better term, if that’s what you’re interested in, from say, 20 different sources for 5 quid a month and that is then divvied up among the publishers. likewise a mixture of news, entertainment, sport etc etc. Then once the subscriber base reaches a tipping point you up the subscription, just like sky did every august when the premier league started again back in the 90s. Everyone protested, but they didn’t cancel their subs

  • @murmur55 twitter

    AGREE! The NOW program on @PBS recently had a good review about using stipends or tax write-offs to support media that matters to individual people. “Bold proposal to save journalism with government subsidies” http://bit.ly/60m74M

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  • http://vacobra.com/ Kevin

    Its not hard to believe that the Times would start micro-charging. It is hard to believe that they would adopt such a, pardon my verbage, stupid method. As a blind person, I often use the online version of many papers for my news, and as a blogger such agrigator sites as Google News is my blessing. If the Times feels that my visit is such a burdon that they will start charging me, I have no problem with finding an alternative source for my news.

  • http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/ Tom Foremski

    They should use metering not to charge but to offer subscriptions and maybe other “club” inducements. Something along the lines of “…we know you love the New York Times…you will love us more with this subscription package that also gets you xxx and xxx…” That’s a better use of metering, target those people with sub deals. The one-hit visitors probably got there by mistake.

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  • http://musingandgadgets.com Kim Landwehr

    I am already picturing a new business model where everyone starts keeping track of how many times they go to a site. I’ve gone to the Times too many times, would you mind emailing your copy to me and I’ll share my Wall street journal with you. This may get them more revenue in the short run, but it will kill them in the long run

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Kim
      That’s my fear. See the appendix I added to the post.

      • http://www.familygreenberg.com/index2.php Brian Greenberg

        I’ll do you one better: how long until the browser extension comes out that counts how many NYTimes articles you’ve read, and then starts removing them from your Google search results right before you start getting charged?

        The newspapers aren’t the only ones who can run micro-payment algorithms these days…

      • Paolo Priotto

        How many people do you think are going to meter their own reading using browser extensions and stuff? Do you really think the average Times reader is as geeky as you?
        I’ll go one step further: How many people will even NOTICE, or care about, that the Times has started metering them? After a certain amount of articles, a message will pop up telling them that to continue reading they’ll have to register to a free 30-day trial, much like in the offline world. And they’ll have you Amazon vouchers if you make your friend subscribe, and so on.

        I really don’t think the average news reader is hopping around the web as easily as you might expect. There’s free porn on the web, too, but people are just too lazy to look for it, so they prefer paying.

    • http://komunikacii.net darko buldioski

      I think we’ll see browser extensions that will show you alternative sources (articles) for the same NYT article that you no longer have chances to read just because you have used your 10… per month

      • http://www.hypercrit.net Michael Becker

        How long before someone accuses the makers of such alternate-source-finding browser extensions of running some kind of aggregation racket and tries to shut them down?

        I also have to wonder how public news organizations that adopt metered pay systems will be with their magic number of articles. Will they tell you beforehand, or will you run smack into a paywall you didn’t see coming?

  • Stephen Clark

    And I assume, like many publishing houses, that they will offer institutional subscriptions; i.e. to colleges and universities with online access granted to associated faculty and students? Sites where drm, for example, is held in the highest regard? Sounds like a plan.

  • Marty

    So what? It’s their (literally) business. They’ll do it and see what happens.

    My guess is it won’t work because they don’t have enough content that is really worth paying for (like, say, WSJ).

    And NYT may be a victim of its own success in that what they print on Monday is everywhere by Tuesday, because they set the agenda for all the media-sheep followers. So unless I’m obsessive about being first, I’ll be able to read all about it free in a day.

    But it’s not a moral issue, nothing wrong with them trying.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Marty,
      Never said it was a moral issue. I think it’s likely to turn out to be bad business. But you’re right: It’s their business. Theirs and their stockholders….

  • David R. Block

    Newspapers may well be dying. Subscribers see that they are not getting news in most offerings, they are getting the news that the editorial board wants them to see, most often spun in the direction the editorial board wants them spun.

    Very much like an oligarchy. Except that the rubes don’t think that those folks on the editorial (or, if you like, idiotorial) board are all that much smarter than they are. Hence the disconnect, the dropped subscriptions, and the disgruntled advertisers.

    True, no one has been able to force users to click on ads. That is the “problem” with net advertising. You can force them to watch something before they get to the article, but that often ticks off the reader if it is something that they have no interest in.

    The users problem is this: after paying say $50 for internet access a month, they find themselves charged another monthly fee for every news subscription that they buy. They don’t have an unlimited budget, so they pick and choose. In my case, the NYT will lose, because they have little to no interest for me in the southwestern US. The editorial positions of the larger papers is no better, so it may become a “chunk them all” proposition.

  • http://ryanholiday.net Ryan Holiday

    “I know, the argument is that these readers use the content more so they should be charged more.”

    I don’t really think that’s even close to the argument. The logic is almost certainly that people who come to the New York Times website multiple times a day or week would be more likely to pay for access if it suddenly disappeared. There is probably a threshold where reading the NYT is no longer casual or cursory and that’s what they’re after. Whether it will or should work is a whole different matter.

    It’s an old rhetorical trick to feign incredulity. I hope that’s what you’re doing here since it’s pretty obvious that what they’re doing here is totally different than micro-payments or the paywall they had previously. Frankly, it’s better for everyone when there is an intelligently discussion about the issue (see Felix: http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2010/01/18/how-the-nyt-should-construct-its-paywall/ ) rather than the same tired histrionics.

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  • http://evilpundit.mee.nu/ Evil Pundit

    Good riddance, NYT.

  • http://nwn.blogs.com Wagner James Au

    Online music service Pandora has a metered content system, and it seems to be doing pretty well. You get 30 days of free music (with ads), then a pay wall comes up and charges you either 99 cents for a month of music (with ads), or $35 for a year of premium quality streamed music with no ads. My guess is people first pay the 99 cents, and having put in their credit card info already, eventually re-up for the $35 deal. Lookit:

    http://paidcontent.org/article/419-pandora-on-track-for-40-million-revs-this-year-more-premium-options-com/

    “Pandora On Track For $40 Million Revs This Year; More Premium Options Coming”

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Music isn’t news. News is information. Information becomes a commodity once it’s known.

      Music isn’t ad supported. News is.

      Apples and kumquats.

      • Gary Valan

        News may be a commodity but I don’t just go to nytimes and Washpost to read AP/Reuters supplied news. I also go there for their original reporting. I would read WSJ too but they have their annoying access limits for a lot of stories and the ~ $79(?) a year is a put off for reading one or two articles a day.

        I am not a media expert like you but as a reader of nytimes.com from outside their normal newspaper service area I am willing to pay up to $25/- a year for full access and a Pandora style cheaper model with ads is a no brainer. There may be others who will pay more.

        There are precious few national newspapers in this country that do a good job of covering National and International news and NYT is one of them. I do agree with you that if you are already NYT newspaper subscriber, access should be free.

      • R. Eader

        I agree, I’d pay $25 a year to read the NYTimes online. but I’m not a professional news industry expert. I’m just a reader.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Would you pay more than $400?

      • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

        Music is ad supported, Jeff: We call that model “radio”.

        And music is a commodity, thanks to file sharing. There isn’t a single song on iTunes that I could get, easily, for free. So why do I choose to pay for them.

        What’s more, if the news stories you’re producing are identical to everyone elses, and you’re adding no value other than that brought by a wire service, you have no business being a journalist. Good journalists add value. Only bad ones churn out commodity news.

      • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

        Tsk – that should read “coudn’t get for free” of course. Silly typo.

  • http://www.uovo.co.uk Philip Cunningham

    May be the plan ties in with the about-to-be-launched Apple tablet/slate/unicorn?

  • http://www.thelaneofdreams.co.uk Norman Giller

    I am joining this debate from the UK, and congratulate Jeff on an all-encompassing article. There is similar agonizing over News International intentions here. I have a Facebook following of several hundred and I asked each of them simply: “Would you pay to read the content of either or all The Times, The Sunday Times, News of the World, The Sun?” To a man (ok, and woman) they responded “no.” many of their replies couched in anglo-Saxon language that I will not repeat here. Metering and/or pay walls will drive visitors into the welcoming arms of free news sites. Let’s not forget that the free-for-all culture of the internet that Murdoch hates so much was set from day one by WWW creator Timothy Berners Lee, who gave it to the world for nothing. He is the Columbus of the web high seas.

  • http://www.subhub.com Evan Rudowski

    Here’s the problem, Jeff.

    Advertising, as you point out, isn’t sufficient to pay the bills. Not too long ago, you would strongly advocate keeping sites free in order to maximize what you called “Googlejuice.” But as we now know, Googlejuice lacks nourishment — it’s more like a “juice drink” loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. It’s great to get the jolt, but converting it into sustained good health isn’t so easy. Ad revenues can no longer sustain an operation like The New York Times.

    You suggest cuts — but as we all know, too many cuts will kill a publication like The New York Times. Quality is expensive and it needs to be paid for.

    You are right to point out some of the flaws in the concept of metering. It seems, however, to be an understandable attempt to strike a balance between putting up a complete pay wall or maintaining some openness.

    Although my company enables many subscription websites and I am a believer in the model, I am not a believer in charging for commodity news. The question is whether The New York Times’ superior quality will be enough to distinguish their coverage from the many alternatives. But if they can’t maintain that quality edge, they’re sunk. I wish them luck.

  • Fen

    They are mere information brokers.

    And they expect to be paid gatekeepers in a world that no longer has fences. Good luck with that.

  • David

    So would your ideal pay scheme look like this…?

    A monthly fee of, say, $5, charged at the end of the month. But every time you click on an article throughout the month, you get a five cent credit towards that month’s fee until you reach zero. So if you get all your news from NYTimes, you are rewarded by paying nothing. The occasional reader who just wants to read one article right now will be the one who pays.

    There are technical reasons it would be a challenge (I could just write a script that opens 100 articles for me) but in theory does this meet the criteria?

  • jt

    I’vebeen around long enough to remember (and to have participated in) some of the earliest ventures in selling metered news content. One of the big surprises for the early aggregators was that their most popular offerings were often just archived press releases–earnings reports, product announcements, personnel changes, etc. “In-depth” analysis and opinion were far less marketable on a per-article basis, even when the content came from well-respected newsletters and research firms that were able to command subscription rates in the hundeds or thousands of dollars a year.

    Of course, this fact of life doomed the metered news business the moment that press release distribution services began posting their stuff on the Web for free. The business model that works for oufits like Business Wire is that they charge news *sources* to post press releases. Maybe the Times has it backwards: they should give away their editorial content and charge the DNC and the White House a huge press release distribution fee…

  • http://www.chron.com Dean Betz

    The strategy isn’t intended to generate the most revenue possible online. It is intended to force people who find the Web the most convenient way to get news to buy the print edition, where newspapers today make more money per user. It is a short-sighted strategy that will make newspaper companies even more irrelevant online.

  • Rob K.

    Jeff- Great points. We don’t curse meter maids because we expect parking to be free, we curse them because they charge us a HUGE premium (a $50 ticket) for using a tiny bit more parking than we paid for. The cell phone companies have metering plans and all-you-can-eat plans. I would expect news to move to the same: a little is free, a medium amount costs per use, and heavy readers buy the unlimited plan.

  • Matt Terenzio

    I disagree that advertising is not working on the web. It just isn’t working for companies that expect it to replace their losses on the print side.

    If you look at online only products and services, you see a healthy mixture of successes and failures.

    • http://www.subhub.com Evan Rudowski

      You’re partially right, Matt. Advertising works for online-only services without the overheads of print publishing — trucks and presses.

      However, the Times carries another overhead cost that very few, if any, online-only publications do — and that’s a world-class editorial staff. Show me an online-only publication that carries a similar staff.

      It may be, as Clay Shirky argues, that the current model is unsustainable, and what will replace it is unknown.

      • Matt Terenzio

        That almost sounds as if the problem is only the salaries of the of these “world-class” folks.

        Are you saying that online journalists are making so little that no quality self respecting journalist would take the job?

        But yes, I think it’s correct that it’s not just moving to online with the same type of operation. The actual way that journalism gets done is going to change. And maybe for the better. . .let’s hope.

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  • http://www.ukfree.tv Briantist

    I suspect the only way that any form of Micropayment could work is if one of the main providers of credit/debit cards (Visa, Mastercard, AmEx etc) comes up with a cents/pennies scheme.

    But the problem with micropayments (and their lower security) is that any system would become a fraud hotspot, and undermine the rest of their systems.

    Perhaps this is what Rupert M knows?

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  • http://ernestoburden.com Ernesto

    Jeff, a question on your first proposition: “I know, the argument is that these readers use the content more so they should be charged more. But that is based on the assumption that content is a consumable, a scarcity that drains the more it is read.” But is that the argument? So far as I understand it, it’s that those frequent readers “value” the content more, as indicated by their more frequent usage, and therefore may or will be willing to pay for it… So perhaps “may” or “will” instead of “should,” which makes the experiment more pragmatically commercial than that based on a sense of entitlement or a moral value judgment?

  • http://sputnik.pl/ Michal Tatarynowicz

    I heard more than once that the cover price of a newspaper or magazine barely covers the cost of printing and distribution. We’ve got rid of printing, and made distribution ridiculously cheap, so why is there still a cover price?

    It’s the newspapers’ fault that they forgot how to write and sell ads.

  • BobP

    Yeah, my reaction too, Ann B (very first comment to this post). The readers are not the customers, not really. In fact, if you’re talking about news being ad supported, these readers are actually the “product” that NYT is selling to its actual customers — its actual customers being advertisers, people who pay money to the NYT for something, that is, they pay for eyeballs.
    Still, your point is well taken, Jeff, that the Times is doing itself no favors by driving away readers. By instead of just saying, “bah, it’ll never work!” why not just sit back and actually watch what happens. Maybe we’ll all be able to learn something. I think this is a shrewd idea — shrewd in that it seems to be an effort to charge the people who value their content most while not slamming the door on casual visitors who are still going to help boost their overall numbers for advertising purposes.
    I’m no advocate for paywalls — you’ve helped me see their problems, Jeff — but I’m willing to keep an open mind to such hybrid business models. I am very interested in seeing how these experiments turn out. The great thing about the Times, for all newspapers, is that they do seem to have enough money to try so many different kinds of things with regard to digital delivery. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. At least they are trying whatever they can think of. From their iPhone app to this kind of micropay system, the Times’ willingness (and financial wherewithal) to experiment to see where the money may end up coming from in online news will end up benefiting all papers who bother to learn from their efforts.

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  • http://www.stratfor.com Aaric Eisenstein

    The WSJ puts its commodity features – opinion, personal finance, lifestyle, etc. – outside its paywall. Its business news and financial analysis it charges for. On the web, there are innumerable sources for essentially indistinguishable articles, and the price people are willing to pay for those substitute goods will rapidly move to the lowest price. If one is free, all have to be.

    The question of which pay model maximizes revenues – micropayments, subscriptions, meters, etc. – is something that can be empirically tested for different sites. Should it be 10 articles before payment? 15? 30? $5/month? $7.50/month? That’s really a second order question.

    The more challenging question facing the NYT and others that used to have monopoly pricing power is whether they’re offering readers something that readers can get elsewhere for free. Nearly all local papers have free websites but substantial home delivery charges. People are willing to pay for the service of paper delivery to their homes. That’s clear.

    Kindle newspapers cost money. The same newspaper read with a web browser is free. And with the Kindle you don’t get color, multimedia, links, etc.. But people want to read on their Kindle, so they’ll pay for the privilege. Again, it’s clear what people are buying: not the content, but the reading mechanism.

    When the question of “what will readers buy” is answered, the debate about how to charge for it will suddenly become much less important and challenging.

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  • John Johnston

    Spot on Mr Jarvis. The newspaper is hurting financially and this smells of panic.

    If the publication was experiencing fast growth and increasing revenues from online advertising would it be considering such a risky step?

  • http://www.cornfieldconsulting.com Chris Turner

    Am I missing something here ? In every business, don’t the heaviest ‘users’ get charged more than the light users ? If I buy a car, don’t I pay more than if I hire or borrow it ? If I buy an iPhone/iPod/Mac, don’t I pay Apple whereas if I borrow it I don’t ? And you know what ? If the value proposition works for me, I am happy to do so. Like many of your other posters, Jeff, I think you should wait and see if these experiments work. Praise the willingness to try something, even if you think it is doomed. By being quite so forthright, you risk looking a goon is some of the paywalls actually work. I think the future value lies in the difference between reporting and journalism which I believe is closer to what you’re calling curation. Reporting is commoditised by the internet, journalism is not.

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  • http://ondemandmedia.typepad.com Nico Flores

    Yoy say: “I know, the argument is that these readers use the content more so they should be charged more. But that is based on the assumption that content is a consumable, a scarcity that drains the more it is read. Of course, it isn’t.”

    But there’s a different reading. It’s not that content is a consummable product. It’s that regular provision of general news coverage is a valuable service. Valuable not in the send of “should pay” but “would pay”. What you charge for is daily visits to the front page by the same people, not access to content.

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  • http://carolsenergynotes.wordpress.com Carol G

    This is a test of the relationship between the NYT and I. And that’s what we are developing on sites: relationships. I will pay money to come into the NYT tent if I can stay in there a while, because it is a superior product, but I don’t like the idea of my pocket being picked in bits…it’s something that makes me feel uncomfortable, and I think oddball financial models will make other readers irked, too. Regarding people ripping text off of NYT: I do not find for free on the net what I find when I am tooling around inside that paper.

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  • Carson

    The business model is upside down. Our neighborhood gym charges less if you go at least 12 times per month. They are giving an economic incentive in the hopes of generating what they call a “lifestyle change.” They want you as a customer for life. By incenting us to attend more often, more people do that, it becomes part of their lifestyle, the gym becomes a community and the economics of having to attract new members with “special deals” becomes less necessary.

    The NYT should take a page from our local gym: incent making the NYT part of your lifestyle — their current plan provides an economic incentive to cut time at their site short, find alternative sites for the same or similar products and eventually establish a new browsing/consumption lifestyle.

  • Mark Bedford

    It occurs to me that accessibility to product is paramount – everyone experiences this truth and J J expresses it – wtf Times? …… why pay when u can get it elsewhere? – tch tch.

  • Steve Layne

    Selling Dollar Bills for Fifty cents, while not a good business model, is almost always allot of fun and enjoyable, that is until you run out of dollar bills.

    That’s where the NYT and just about everyone else like them is now heading. I don’t care if the product is the printed version or the online version, the issue is still the same. Quality costs money, really good quality costs even more. Even if you strip out the $50 sq ft rent, and union contracts, and private jets, and newspaper trucks, etc, etc, etc……. we are still faced with the core fundamental issue (s) of Sales (however you decide to charge) less costs (however inexpensively you can make it) “should” produce a profit. To the best of my knowledge, very few if any ONLINE news businesses have solved this simple math equation to date. I did make one assumption here (and we all know the line about assumptions) and that is for any of this to work, there must be a Profit.

    So who know’s? Maybe the NYT will get it right. It surely will not be what allot of us might want it to be, but who says it has to? If they can solve the basic equation, and figure out how to sell dollar bills for $1.50, and it only costs them twenty-five cents per dollar bill to do it, maybe it will work after all.

  • Virtuous

    News has become a commodity. There are so many news outlets: newspapers, magazines, local TV stations, national networks, the Internet and the websites of all of these outlets. Major stories wind up being over covered. Murdoch and the Times seem to really not want to be on the Net. No one is forcing them to have websites just like no one is forcing them to continue home delivery.

  • rick edmonds

    Jeff:

    I think Ann B. is onto something. I know that “why charge your best customers?” is in the context of your well-considered theories on the link economy. But standing alone it’s an odd assertion. Millions of businesses do.
    And even in context, I think it makes plenty of business sense — have
    just posted Biz Blog item to that efffect.

    http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=123&aid=176198

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  • http://alexandraschmidt.com/ alex

    isn’t this the blog that’s always urging media companies to be fearless in the face of public failure?

  • http://hcuevas.info/ Hector Cuevas

    Metering is useless unless is strictly enforced, say by requiring credit card info for every account, even if you won’t read enough to pay. Then the NYT has to choose between getting in your way when you are about to jump into the “pay” bracket or annoy you with unexpected (but totally legitimate and unrefundable) charges.

    More important than that: Why is the NYT obliged to make the advertising model work? This wrong assumption leads to the wrong discussion.

    If working to write/research/edit a piece doesn’t entitle you to decide how and how much to charge for it (if you charge at all) I don’t know what it will. What you (or I) think of information doesn’t matter -what the journalist thinks of his work (which has information but is not just information) is what really matters.

    If you think news is a commodity, why do you care so much for what the NYT does? A little while ago I wrote this, precisely in the context of News Corp. wanting to get paid:

    http://blog.hcuevas.info/2009/12/01/nothing-on-the-internet-is-free/

    My take? If the NYT dies, it will be because there’s no paying market for it, not because it dared to get value from it. And we don’t get to set the price -only the choice of not paying it.

  • http://www.broadstuff.com alan p

    The economics of meter reading may be cock-eyed but what they were doing before just wasn’t working at all. And carrying on doing something that ain’t working is a very, very dumb thing to do.

    And I note with interest that the Media that have best embraced the “New Economics” like HuffPo base their economics on a few full timers, mainly (very) free lancers for content plus a liberal dose of stuff from the NYT et al.

    I wonder where most of the New “online papers” will do if the sources for many of their news stories fall over

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  • Sandy Atkinson

    For those who lament the passing of high quality editorial & columnist content in the NY Times.

    1) Isn’t this post and the high quality of the comments here far better and more detailed, balanced and nuanced than any analysis you’d get of this story in the NY Times?

    2) If its better than that, isn’t it far better than what you’ll get in your regional news source, and light years better than CNN?

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  • cliff barney

    jeff jarvis writes of the times:

    ” Its costs are too high — and rather than cutting them into a rational business, it desperately seeks some other revenue.”

    but this is why you avowedly “love” the times – because it spends the money to report the news. there is a reason that the times is so good: it pays its reporters and editors well, and it pays a lot of them. if it didn’t, the socalled aggregators would have a lot less to aggregate.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Except, Cliff, like a bundled cable sub, there are huge parts of The Times I don’t read: sports, for example. I’ve argued in the past that The Times should become a national paper and spin off Metro, which costs more than it brings in in endemic advertising, especially since the Times’ NYC audience is not actually that big. If the Times cut printing and distribution it would cut huge cost. Yes, revenue would go with that but let’s look at the total P&L. I am paying to support printers along with reporters. Nice guys, I’m sure but they don’t add value.

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  • Mayuresh

    This may have been touched on already but I wonder if the Times has considered how many of their readers in developing countries would pay to access their content? From my experience of growing up in India, the penetration of credit cards is extremely low when compared with other, more developed, countries. And even when credit cards are available there is hesitancy in using it online — even if it means using it for something as well known as the NY Times.

    As many have already said, this is such a large barrier and contrary to what we’ve been used to for the past decade or so, that people will simply stop going to the NYT website which eventually will just be an also-ran, rather than a leader like it ought to be.

    Mayuresh

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  • http://mediacafe.blogspot.com jeff mignon

    I have the feeling that it is time to do some math here… in order to have a clearer idea on the potential revenue for the NYT. We’ll do that soon.

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  • http://nexttolastblog.wordpress.com/ Glenn

    Media NewsGroup is no NY Times. If the Times metering fails again, they will figure something else out. MNG is not a leader and I would not find 25 premium articles a month worth paying for. They are doing metering with a company managed/owned by recycled TCI cable TV execs. The experiment will be a failure and add more debt to the billion the banks just took in equity.

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