Charging For Online Newspapers

by Brian McConnell


You publish a major daily newspaper or magazine. You want to have your cake and eat it too (charge for web access and sell online ads).


Instead of forcing readers to subscribe to an electronic edition, just ask them to enter an access code from a recent print edition of the news paper. The access code is one of those warped text and numeric images that websites use to thwart bots. So if you subscribe to the paper or at least buy a print copy every now and then, you can access the web archives when you need to.

Simple, easy enough to implement, and this has the added bonus of encouraging people to buy the print edition. I am a case in point, I read the NY Times pretty much every day. So I am already paying several hundred dollars per year. I don't want to pay twice to read articles I could have read in print. Plus I'd like to be able to read the edition anonymously, something the disposable access code trick would allow.

Of course, this is not a perfect system, people can post access codes online easily enough, but on balance there are enough honest people to support a system like this, enough that maybe this is worth a try....


2005-05-17 23:50:55
why go that way...
Electronic editions already work. Many papers make them available free of charge to subscribers and are apparently getting a decent number of paying subscribers to offset the cost of the service.
If they didn't those electronic editions wouldn't exist.

Your scheme indeed wouldn't work. The codes would appear online in minutes and those with no access to the stolen codes only have to walk to the nearest newsstand or cafe/restaurant and browse through a paper to get one.

2005-05-18 00:36:33
why go that way...
My point is that as a paying subscriber for the print edition, I am subsidizing online access and don't like paying for something twice. I spend several hundred dollars per year on the print edition, and now I am suppose to pay again for the same content. I don't think so.

If you make it easy for people to pay, for example by paying 75 cents for a newstand copy, they'll pay, especially if they feel like they're getting something tangible in return. And for your loyal customers who are already paying, you won't make them feel like they are being ripped off.

I am personally very reluctant to subscribe to online services. Somehow they always seem to keep billing your credit card ad infinitum. I'd rather give a few coins to the local magazine shop, if that gives me a couple days of access to the website in addition to the daily paper, great. And you know what, a lot of people actually like reading the paper, so that's a way to encourage them to keep doing that.

What the NY Times is doing is just simple greed, and not well thought out. I thought they had a good system with charging for content after a week. I've occasionally paid for archive articles. But I am not going to pay to read Friedman's op-ed piece. I'll just wait for a blogger to repost it, or go read something else. It's not as if there is a shortage of opinions online, and not everyone is determined to steal everything that's not nailed down.

2005-05-21 11:00:46
why go that way...
"It's not as if there is a shortage of opinions online"

Beautifully understated.

That's the key. Sure, I'll pay for information - but opinion? No thank you. I go out of my way to avoid trolls and demagogues. I'm not going to pay to read them.