I read an article over at Mashable today, labelled New York Times Will Go Out of “Print” Sometime in the Future, which should come as no surprise, as most newsprint is likely to be extinct within a couple of decades, probably sooner. The “Gray Lady” will no longer be a physical newspaper, according to NYT’s publisher and chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. And furthermore:
“We will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD,” he said to attendees of the International Newsroom Summit.
That is all as one might expect. After all, we no longer use black and white TV’s, do we?
The really baffling thing about the New York Post however, is how, with the Internet edition’s sky-rocketing traffic figures, it should be possible to generate respectable revenues, wouldn’t you think? Sadly, that isn’t so. Or, again, to quote Mashable:
[…] it’s taken most news outlets quite a bit of time to come around to the realization that print isn’t the be-all-end-all of journalism. By delaying innovation, many publications have put themselves in financially dire straits while scrambling to catch up with web-friendly revenue models.
This particular newspaper has flirted with various revenue models for online content over the past several years. Readers will be subject to a metered paywall beginning next year.
NYTimes.com had previously toyed with another paywall-type mode, called TimesSelect, around three years ago. The change wasn’t as lucrative as the paper had expected; still, Sulzberger sees the experiment as educational, not necessarily a failure.
In response to my assertion the other day, that more online newspapers should try NYT’s formula for success, the CEO of Norway’s leading online tabloid, VG Nett, told me that “NYT is extraordinarily boring to look at, and unprofitable to boot,” which, ties in nicely with the information shared by Mashable (above). That said, I can’t help concluding that they must do something right, producing this kind of statistics:
You don’t get that kind of figures if you’re “extraordinarily boring”. The VG Nett CEO is right though: NYT has proven itself utterly unprofitable, but ask yourself, if you love good journalism, which do you prefer, the NYT way or the Norwegian model (Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet.no, see screendump to the left)? The latter characterised by an extremely cluttered use of (huge) photographs and (equally huge) ads. Looks like the advertiser’s own website, doesn’t it, with a bit of news squeezed in on the middle.
I’m really sorry, but that really doesn’t cut it. With me, anyway. Then again, the difference between Norwegian online dailies and the New York Times is enormous. Looking at the NYT again, you have to admit there’s plenty of room for a few more ads. Don’t tell me that the advertisers aren’t interested in reaching 32 million unique users a month!
Remember when Salon.com launched their freemium model back in the 1990’s? Apparently quite a few of the magazine’s loyal readers were quite prepared to pay not to see the paid-for splash screen. I didn’t count myself among them, living by the maxim Information wants to be free, but I really didn’t mind the ads. You really can’t if you want it to stay that way. It would seem, though, that the New York Times is opposed to the cluttered appearance of Norwegian news sites, for which you really cannot blame them, but to think that this will save “The Gray Lady”:
Sorry, Mac (pun partly intended)… I don’t buy into that either. Norway’s equivalent to New York Times, former broadsheet Aftenposten, degenerated to a tabloid over the last decade, seems to believe there’s future in the iPad. According to editor-in-chief Hilde Haugsgjerd today,
[…] By charging a user fee from day one, we break the Internet dailies’ trend. The product will have a whole different set of qualities, and we are convinced that the advertisers are willing to pay more – for instance by enabling them to buy fullpage ads, Ms Haugsgjerd explains.
— My translation
Oy vey… We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we.
But I can tell you this much: There’s absolutely no reason why New York Times shouldn’t succeed with a free Internet edition, with a free iPad edition, for that matter. If they are willing to let the advertisers in.
Top photograph: The New York Times headquarters. Photographer: Haxorjoe/Wikipedia