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NY Times Abandons Paid Members Area


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#1 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 10:54 AM

This seems like the most appropriate place for this article --- Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site.

It's interesting largely because the Times states explicitly that their paid-member program, Times Select, met expectations and was profitable. However, they concluded that going forward they saw greater potential for profit growth in advertising rather than in charging members.

And it's at least partially due to search:

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.


I think that this is great news for the continuance of the current "free content" model of the web. And, I'll be able to read my favorite columnists again... :)

#2 randfish

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 01:20 PM

Our good friend Marshall has been pushing for this a long, long time. I think it will almost certainly mean that a lot of other paid content providers start looking at their own revenue numbers to see what makes the most sense. We've already seen Rupert Murdoch question whether Dow Jones content should be out in the open (via Techmeme).

#3 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 01:34 PM

Losing the walled garden model of web content certainly won't break MY heart. It won't work for every institution, of course --- I haven't looked at any numbers, but I'm pretty confident that there's a tipping point between paid memberships and advertising where advertising begins to outweigh members --- and that it's a pretty high one.

The probable or potential advertising revenue for a relatively small site is significantly lower than that for a highly trafficked site --- advertising revenue doesn't follow a straight-line trajectory, unlike paid membership revenue.

#4 yannis

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 01:45 PM

Thanks for the good news Joe. The writing was on the wall. Even with printed newspapers a great many of them now days would distribute them for free (in order to increase readership and hence advertizing revenue).

Yannis

#5 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 02:20 PM

Thanks for the good news Joe. The writing was on the wall. Even with printed newspapers a great many of them now days would distribute them for free (in order to increase readership and hence advertizing revenue).


That's definitely true...just a couple weeks ago I had a free subscription to one of the local papers coming to my door. Kind of a pain...I'd forgotten just how much PAPER a newspaper builds up!

Canceled it pretty quickly...although it's pleasant sitting down to read a newspaper with my coffee, I prefer not having all the paper to deal with.

And it's MUCH easier to ignore ads online. :) (Which bears an interesting relationship to this discussion, actually...)

#6 Respree

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 02:23 PM

I think it just goes to show that sometimes offline business models don't necessarily translate effectively online.

I'd like to see them adjust the model one more time. If I'm going to pay for something, I don't want to see their advertisements - at all.

I think publishers think they are doing their readers a big favor by putting advertisements next to content. Frankly, with so much spam and adverts on the web, commercials on TV, junk mail in my mailbox, junkmail in my inbox, radio spots and billboards as I drive on the freeway, its sensory overload. I go to the movies, pay $10 (yes, $10 dollars) to see a movie and what do I get -- commercials!

If I want a service or product, I'll search for it on the Internet (and I'll find it too). If you make me pay, don't force it on me, please...

Edited by Respree, 18 September 2007 - 04:04 PM.


#7 AbleReach

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 03:34 PM

I think this move shows a developing trust for the web as a medium in its own right - a mature medium.

#8 bobbb

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 03:41 PM

Wonder if Britannica will get that idea?

#9 DianeV

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 09:46 PM

I'd hate to be shortsighted about advertisements, though. There are instances where advertisements are part of the reason you're reading something:

- movie reviews, with ads about new movies
- fashion mags, with designers' ads (this means GQ too)
- magazines like Architectural Digest, where I don't mind seeing paint and furniture brands

I'm sure there are more. These contribute to the experience and usefulness of a magazine (either paper or online), without which it would be far less.

I just kind of hate to fall into wide generalizations, such as "I hate ads".

#10 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 09:51 PM

I'd hate to be shortsighted about advertisements, though. There are instances where advertisements are part of the reason you're reading something:


And that's certainly what every advertiser is hoping --- that's kind of the best possible scenario for advertisements. I certainly don't have any complaints AT ALL about the world of focused, relevant, targeted advertising. At worst, I'm not interested; at best it can (gasp) actually be valuable to me.

What I'd like to see lost and forgotten are the piles of aggressive and irrelevant ads many websites are littered with - the ones which make up for irrelevancy by being louder, faster, and more annoying than anything else around...

#11 DianeV

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 09:53 PM

Well, you have a point there, Joe. :)

#12 A.N.Onym

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 01:03 AM

I wonder what it means to the paid subscription based model of resource websites. It's been proven to be more effective than an informational product one, so now that people want to access everything, is this model heading towards a cliff?

Is advertising the most suitable model? Any other people-friendly efficient revenue income models out there?

#13 Respree

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 01:37 AM

Let's try it this way.

Who out there actually enjoys seeing advertisements?

I can see them being tolerable under related topic conditions, but if you had a choice between content with or content without, which would be your preference (with all other things being equal)?

[No offense to those who make a living selling advertisements. The questions above are asked purely from a consumer standpoint.]

#14 A.N.Onym

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 05:34 AM

Well, the way you put it, Garrick, people would certainly prefer stuff without advertisement.

But let's put it the other way: would you prefer to pay to have the content without ads? I'd figure most people would opt for a free ad blocker and ignore the ads completely themselves instead of paying a membership.

An option of free content w/o ads is great, but not an option for someone, who wants to make a living from a website.

What would be the most user friendly method?

Or maybe it is not the method, but the ad quality? If the ads are entertaining, useful or both, who wouldn't want to check them out?

Edited by A.N.Onym, 20 September 2007 - 05:38 AM.


#15 bobbb

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 10:18 AM

Very interesting comment above especially in light that many people (here) make money with Adsense and pay-per-click. It would be interesting if they gave us their thoughts.

You will never see TV without ads nor newspapers so the same goes for the web. I really don't see anything wrong with ads if done nicely. The ones here in this forum are not annoying and in many other places. I think that we are all referring to the loud and annoying ones. Are they the norm or the majority of ads. Have no data on that.

OK what are examples of useful sites that are ad free? Exclude sites that just sell products.

Edited by bobbb, 20 September 2007 - 10:22 AM.


#16 Ron Carnell

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 11:05 AM

I can see them being tolerable under related topic conditions, but if you had a choice between content with or content without, which would be your preference (with all other things being equal)?

Good question, Garrick. Here's one for you in return:

All things being equal, if you had a choice between a new car with a price tag and one without, which would be your preference? :)

And, no, I'm not trying to be facetious. My question is essentially the same as yours and, I strongly suspect, invokes much the same answer. We'd all love to get our products and services for free. Most of us, though, learned a long time ago that ain't going to happen. Ever.

Of course my analogy quick falls apart because, by and large, there's only way to get a new car; you spend your hard-earned money. Web sites are much more diverse. Some few charge real money like the NYT did. Some are like shaving equipment, given away for almost nothing in hopes you'll buy the razor blades to go with it. Some are like cheap pens from your realtor or refrigerator magnets from a local bank. The list is long (and growing), but none of them are ever free. Not even sites like this one where the cost is typically time and commitment rather than money.

Advertising will get less intrusive. It's already happening, in my opinion, both because of contextual ads ala Google and because the big boys are discovering the Internet can be effective as a branding tool. We've become accustomed to watching those infomercials at two in the morning, essentially television's answer to Direct Marketing. It's time, now, for some prime time adverts designed to build brand and, when we're lucky, entertain us. Heck, a few years down the road we might even be talking about Super Bowl type extravaganzas on the Internet? :banana_wgun:

Advertising on the Web is changing, growing, but certainly not going away any time soon.

#17 DianeV

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 04:19 PM

Ron, that's kind of what I was thinking of (although I didn't say it). One can *want* advertisement-free content, but that's not something that one is inherently entitled to — it depends entirely on the provider.

Providers don't owe anyone their content for free any more than you owe them your work for free. There is the matter of exchange: I give you something and you give me something in return, and we hopefully both agree on what those terms will be, or we don't agree.

I say this not having advertising on our sites, although I'm not saying that we never will.

#18 A.N.Onym

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Posted 20 September 2007 - 08:25 PM

Well, on the web, the financial stability of websites and their owners depend on how they make money from a website. If they aren't selling anything, then they are using advertising. If they aren't doing either, they are aiming for branding, like Seth Godin (though I think he does have a sellable book or two) or they will be monetizing later (I might fall in this category, but you could argue I am trying to invite visitors to ask me to provide services and that's not really 'selling a product').

Edited by A.N.Onym, 20 September 2007 - 08:26 PM.




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