I just read in The Observer that the New York Times is considering two plans to charge online users:
One includes a “meter system,” in which the reader can roam freely on the Web site until hitting a predetermined limit of word-count or pageviews, after which a meter will start running and the reader is charged for movement on the site thereafter…the second proposal [is] a “membership” system. In this model, readers pledge money to the site and are invited into a “New York Times community.”
Here is my free advice: ditch option one, and embrace option 2. It’s not that I don’t believe in charging for content, but rather that nobody else does, and it’s quixotic for even the New York Times to think it can buck the trend solo. OK, not quite solo, but the article cites New York Times executive editor Bill Keller as saying that the Times makes significantly more money from digital advertising than The Wall Street Journal makes from its subscription-based pay model. Of course, past performance isn’t necessarily a great predictor of the future, but it’s probably indicative of the near term.
I wrote a couple of months ago that “Community = Copy Protection“. It may also equal business model protection. Of course, the New York Times would have to put serious thought and effort into offering a community worth paying for (I hope the “baseball cap or a T-shirt” suggestion in the article is a joke). But I do believe it’s a vision they should pursue.