Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Well, somebody has to go first...

NYT Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. reportedly said, in a speech last week, that the Times has "renewed our analysis of how paid content can augment our core advertising business." And the paper's executive editor, Bill Keller, has said "a lively, deadly serious discussion continues within the Times about ways to get consumers to pay for what we make."

God bless them. If they can make it work, it might give courage to all the publishers out there who are afraid to experiment with paid online content. I'm not suggesting we should put everything behind a paid wall overnight, but finding ways to generate incremental revenue from readers should be on the table. As of now, however, no editor or publisher wants to stick his or her head out of the gopher hole first, for fear of being shot.

Of course, the Times has been down this road at least two other times. In each case, it eventually abandoned the effort. The question is whether the situation is dire enough now that execs there will be willing to bet their franchise on finding a way to make it work. In the end, that might be what it takes.

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