‘NYT’ Decision Near on Charging for Web Content, Other Papers Unmoved

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By: E&P Staff

In a lengthy article Monday on newspapers facing questions about the future of free Web content, Katharine Q. Seelye of the The New York Times reveals that her newspaper ?has been considering charging for years and is expected to make an announcement soon about its plans. … Executives at The Times have suggested that the paper, which already charges for its crossword puzzle, news alerts and archives online, may start charging for other portions of its content, but would not follow the [Wall Street] Journal model, which charges online readers $79 a year for everything.?

She added that most other major papers ?are watching and waiting as they study the patterns of online readers.?

The Washington Post has no current plans to charge, fearing a big drop off in traffic, but ?we’re always looking at the issue,” Caroline Little, publisher of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, told Seelye. The online registration process that most papers now require, while free, lays the groundwork for charging, she added.

The Gannett Co. also said it had no plans to start charging. Tribune Co. ?has conducted limited experiments in charging for access, some more successful than others,? Seelye notes. ?The Los Angeles Times charges $4.95 a month for its Calendar Live section, which covers entertainment and provides listings and restaurant reviews, but traffic to the site has declined and a spokeswoman said the paper was reviewing the decision to charge for it.?

Advertising revenue from online sites “is booming and, while it accounts for only 2 percent or 3 percent of most newspapers’ overall revenues, it is the fastest-growing source of revenue,? Seelye writes. ?And newspaper executives are watching anxiously as the number of online readers grows while the number of print readers declines.?

In January, The Times’s Web site had 1.4 million unique daily visitors. Its daily print circulation averaged 1,124,000 in 2004.

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