The decision by the New York Times to stop it’s subscription service for access to its columnists and archives may one of the final nails in the coffin of paid media online. The outcome was inevitable. At least that’s the view of Jeff Jarvis and other pundits. Take a look at the news as reported in the Times itself.
With the Times tearing down the walls the last remaining outposts of fee-based subscription are two media legends – the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Jarvis posits that these two recalcitrant giants will ultimately join the crowd and accept the reality that charging for content online is anathema to the internet, and creates more harm than good for companies seeking to attract viewers and foster relationships rather than transactions. Furthermore, the economic model for subscription has proven to be deeply flawed and unsustainable. To its credit, the Times acknowledged the driving force in its decision was that occasional viewers visiting the website for information were unlikely to pay for the service – or to return to the site. In the Web environment – where access to sites is virtually universal and content, applications and software are often free – there is little demand (or patience) for restricted sites. The Times was shutting out potentially thousands – if not millions – of viewers finding the Times site via search engines or aggregators. (According to Neilsen the Times gets about 13 million unique visitors a month – putting it among the most visited media sites in the world.)
This is good news for online viewers and ultimately good news for the Times. Now they can focus their efforts on expanding their user base by sharing relevant content, providing a distinctive editorial perspective, fostering conversation and driving revenue through advertising, rather than subscriptions. Welcome to Web 2.0. Is the Journal watching this?