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Newspapers, Publishing and the Online World

March 14, 2011

It was once conventional for the consumer to pay for journalism. Publishers charged each reader a fee in exchange for a comprehensive account of current affairs. This fee, while small, was considered a fundraiser for the newspapers. On top of this fee is advertising revenue. Revenue which keeps the price of the daily newspaper low is also responsible for the current free online content. Reuters reported that this year’s advertising revenue on the internet for newspapers surpassed print media revenue. That is to say that readers have moved to view the newspaper online, and advertisers have followed them.

Debate has occurred on the topic of online content and whether or not it should be free. The New York Times announced in early 2010 that it would begin to charge online readers for viewing articles. This ‘metered model’ was purportedly to start in early 2011. Currently, in March 2011, this system has not been enacted. This may be testament to the difficulty in creating the best possible model with minimal implications and disadvantages for the paper. Rivals on the international stage such as The Guardian have responded by attacking the plan, saying it would mean that the industry would start on a “sleepwalk to oblivion”.

The internet has shifted the way people view published material. The New York Times online site has have 17 million readers internationally. The site is user friendly and the content is known for its high quality. It remains to be seen if this vast readership will remain if publishers take the next big step in online media, asking readers for their credit card. Its ambitious chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger seems to think that his soon to be released model will have the ability to retain its large audience. An argument which The Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger believes is unfounded and damaging to the industry

An interesting note about The New York Times and publishing shifts: The paper has more Twitter followers than print subscribers.

A further note about The New York Times and access: Readers can access the newspaper (and many others) online, on Twitter, on Facebook, as an iPhone app and/or as an iPad app. This demonstrates the versatility and capability of Web 2.0 publishing.

UPDATE: The New York Times will begin their paywall on the 28th of March. It will operate under a ‘metered model’ which means people can view 20 articles online per month before they have to pay. The rate is $15 per month for online viewing or $20 per month with combined online and tablet access.

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