The New York Times announces in tomorrow’s paper that its experiment with charging for a portion of its content on the web has come to an end:
What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com. These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.
“What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others,” Ms. Schiller said.
The Times’s site has about 13 million unique visitors each month, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, far more than any other newspaper site. Ms. Schiller would not say how much increased Web traffic the paper expects by eliminating the charges, or how much additional ad revenue the move was expected to generate.
I used to echo the standard line that “content is king.” If that were true, the Times wouldn’t be giving it away. The reality is relationships and conversations are what matter, and the TimesSelect wall was cutting off those relationships.Content is nobility at best (since users can generate it, too), not royalty.
In the city where I work — Rochester, Minnesota — the Post-Bulletin has likewise opened all of its content to non-subscribers. The reason: it was losing online ad revenue.
As Jarvis notes, it seems much more likely that the Wall Street Journal will soon open its online content to non-subscribers, especially under its new ownership.