Would you pay for a newspaper website subscription?
You get to read Bitterwallet for free and yes, you're very welcome. In fact you can read any high quality news source online for nothing, but that may not be the case for much longer.
The daily rags are currently getting turned over by the bull-necked stooges that are the recession and the internet. The recession isn't something the newspaper industry could easily dodge; the same can't be said for the internet. Many failed to conceive that online could ever replace print; even just a few years ago, an exec at the Daily Mail famously stated the internet would never be a place for breaking news. Newspapers have been slow to embrace new technology, and many still refuse to publish content online and choose to sit on stories until they appear in print.
Websites are stripping the industry of every selling point and cash cow they have. Want classifieds? There's Craigslist. Breaking news? Try Twitter. Photos? Got Flickr. Comment and opinion? Millions of blogs. Recruitment? Take your pick. And the effects are savage; UK newspaper revenues started declining rapidly last Summer while the US industry has been on the skids since 2006, as a graph that wouldn't look out-of-place in a business-based sitcom clearly demonstrates:
The recession can be blamed in part, but revenue was falling long before it began. So what are newspapers to do about it? One judge in the US has suggested banning hyperlinks, while the New York Times is considering making online content available only to subscribers.
The plan is to charge subscribers to the paper edition $30 a year for online access, and non-subscribers $60 a year. If the decision is approved, it wouldn't be the first time the NYT has attempted it; in 2007, 200,000 subscribers paid for access to archives and columnists but the revenues were considered too small to be worthwhile.
The difficulty in making online subscriptions work is that sites need to either serve a specialist audience or have strong brand loyalty. In this instance, online readers will simply go elsewhere for generic news and events coverage. But the New York Times is a respected brand, and execs will be hoping they can persuade a reasonable percentage of the millions of online users that $5 is a fair price. Memo to NYT execs: after years of providing all that stuff for free, they probably won't think it is.
So far there no UK broadsheets and tabloids have announced similar plans, but since they're fresh out of all other ideas, expect somebody to try charging you for their news in the not too-distant future.