The New York Times Tears Down Its Wall

Tomorrow the New York Times will no longer charge for on-line access to articles. That’s good news for people like me who post the occasional blog that links to a NYT article.

There are also rumors brewing about The Wall Street Journal doing the same.

As someone who went to journalism school back when we used manual typewriters in class, these developments are both exciting and troubling.

They’re exciting because anyone with an Internet connection now has access to one of the best newspapers in the country (instead of shelling out $300/year for the print version).

What is troubling is that I’m not sure the NYT can continue to be a great newspaper based purely on Web-based ad revenues. As Michael Woff wrote recently in Vanity Fair:

The paper version of The New York Times has 1.1 million daily readers and makes less than $2 billion a year; the online version has 40 million readers a month and likely makes about $250 million—a problem, since the Times’s newsgathering budget is about $300 million. This is some conundrum: you have an old-fashioned business which supports your newsgathering operation, so you take that news and put it online (free to readers—and much cheaper for advertising), which, ultimately, attracts all your readers and advertisers, and puts your moneymaking enterprise out of business.

Something has got to give. And, with this decision by the Times, it has.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.