The New York Times ventures into the dark lands of charging for website access. Can it work?

by Knowlton Thomas

On the Internet, everything is free. That's just the nature of the beast.

This notion isn't entirely accurate, of course, but it's often the sentiment carried by web surfers - nobody goes to a website and expects to pay money simply to view the webpages, even if its valuable content.

But the New York Times, arguably the world's most influential newspaper, has decided to begin charging for full access to its online content, as well as its smartphone and tablet apps.

People are subscribed to the print edition will retain full access to the digital platforms for free, but the rest of the world will have to pay $15 U.S. per month (website and apps access all inclusive).

This system is expected to launch today in Canada, and then in a week or two in the U.S.

Naturally, the NYT is trying to boost digital revenue - but the question is, will what it gains from subscriptions outweigh what it loses in ad revenue from drops in traffic? Of course, the NYT is not the only newspaper in this conundrum - nearly ever print publication is caught in the same dilemma. But if anyone can pull it off, it's the NYT. And if it can... we may just see an industry-wide shift, where online newspaper subscriptions for major publications become the norm.

It's unlikely, but possible nonetheless, especially if print subscriptions grant automatic digital access at no extra charge. This acts as an incentive for people to subscribe to the print model, where ad revenues are much higher than online - after all, that's the situation where you get the most bang for your buck, which is what consumers of the Internet Era love (assuming they still remember what "print" is).

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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