The Observer’s John Koblin reports that the NY Times is considering putting a meter on usage of its site and charging once you’ve read too much.
They’ve spent the last 15 years trying to get people to stay longer and read more on their site and now they’re going to penalize their best customers? Readers’ inner dialogue is not hard to imagine: ‘Uh-oh, should I read that next story – and see that ad and maybe find something worth linking to and bring in other readers? It might start costing me. I’d better conserve my Times characters; they’re adding up; already read 20,000 of them. I think it’s time to go elsewhere now.’
This emotional rush to charging for charging’s sake is not only getting dumb and dumber but it’s also going to be destructive.
I fear The Times has been lunching with cable people. They should instead take Tom Evslin out for drinks. I’ve told his story here and in my book. Tom is the unsung hero of the internet who, when he ran AT&T Worldnet, was the first major ISP to go to flat-rate pricing of $19.95 a month for all you can browse. Tom took the clock off the internet. What happened when he did? We no longer worried about that tick, tick, tick. Usage exploded. The internet became part of our lives. Now The Times is thinking about turning the clock back on? If it does, that clock is ticking down its own lifespan.
Koblin says The Times is also considering creating some sort of club: give money (here’s the tin cup) and get a tote bag and a chance to watch an editorial meeting. (Having sat through too many editorial meetings elsewhere in my day, I’d say you’d have to pay me to sit in any more.)
The rush to charging is also getting sadder and sadder. It’s like watching a grandmother who has run out of money and so, to afford the drugs she needs to save her life, is looking around the attic for any heirloom she can sell on the corner.