NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Times Co. is considering
subscription fees to the online version of its flagship newspaper,
which now is available for free, but it has no immediate plans to do
so, the company said on Friday.
One of the paper's biggest rivals, Dow Jones & Co. Inc.'s Wall Street
Journal, charges for its online edition. A New York Times spokeswoman
said the company is reviewing whether it should make any business
changes to the online version but that no shifts were imminent.
"We are reviewing the site to see whether or not there would be any
areas where we should change the business model," said the
spokeswoman, Catherine Mathis, adding: "This is not new. We've been
discussing this for some time."
According to the upcoming issue of BusinessWeek magazine, whose cover
story focuses on The New York Times Co., an internal debate has been
raging at the newspaper over whether its online edition, which had
about 18.5 million unique monthly visitors as of November, should
adopt a subscription fee.
N.Y. Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was quoted in the article
as saying: "It gets to the issue of how comfortable are we training a
generation of readers to get quality information for free. That is
The online edition of the newspaper is available for free to
registered users, although some content, such as archived articles,
are available only if readers pay a fee.
Paid Web sites can help publishers draw new circulation revenue, but
free online editions can be attractive to advertisers because they
attract many more readers.
Newspaper industry consultant John Morton, who heads Morton Research
Inc., said he thinks many newspapers want to wean readers off free
online content and transform their Web sites into paid-only
Free editions of newspapers on the Web are "quickly falling out of
favor," he said. "I think you will see newspapers selling electronic
subscriptions or print subscriptions, or a combination of both, which
is what the Wall Street Journal does, and has been very successful
The Journal had about 701,000 paid subscribers for its Web
edition as of the third quarter. Online Journal subscribers pay
$79 a year, or $39 if they also subscribe to the print version.
In a statement, Dow Jones' president of electronic publishing Gordon
Crovitz said his company "would be delighted" if the N.Y. Times began
charging online subscription fees.
"We have never understood why a publisher would charge for its news in
one medium, such as print, then give it away for free in another
medium, such as online," he said.
Mathis said that when the online version of the New York Times was
first launched in the mid-1990s, it experimented with charging readers
outside the United States a subscription fee. She said that plan was
dropped in 1998 in favor of a free site for all registered users.
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