local media insider

NYTimes says yes to metering, Jarvis says he'll cancel

Alisa Cromer

Jeff Jarvis, blogging in The Faster Times, says he will not subscribe to NYTimes online when they begin to charge frequent users as expected:

“They would end up charging - and, they should fear, sending away - the readers who are worth the most while serving free those who are worth least.”

In fact, he says, if they charge him more he will cancel. He’ll curate, he’ll search, he’ll read BBC more often. Really?

Author of “What Would Google Do?,” Mr. Jarvis is almost the founder of the term, “link economy.” But charging customers who are “worth the most” is exactly what marketers do. Who would you charge? Customers worth the least? And if you don’t charge your most valuable customers, what, exactly are they worth?

Wouldn’t it be worth it for a newspaper site to lose a percentage of the online audience, if the financially viable percentage would pay? Or is it blind faith that the link economy must always be free? What about the massive number of paid subscription sites already raking in the money, from the Motley Fool to Match.com?

Newspapers already know they can double and triple print copy prices to people like Mr. Jarvis, who put a premium on print, just because. Why can’t loyalists pay more for online extras? They can, and they will.

Mr. Jarvis, who gets the New York Times delivered to his door, says he’ll cancel the print edition if the NYTimes charges him extra for an online subscription. Maybe newspapers can keep finding ways to charge more for the paper so he won’t think he is paying when he registers for “free” online. More probably thousands of nytimes.com visitors who do not even want the physical paper are willing to pay for online access (I’m one of the latter).

The BBC.com - which Jarvis holds up as his personal alternative to paying for the NYTimes online - is publicly supported, neither a product of the link economy nor of the commercial media industry. In the United States, much of the mass audience does prefer the randomly sourced news that appears on their Yahoo home page. But they get what they pay for.

It’s true as Mr. Jarvis suggests, that the NYTimes.com doesn’t want to cede domination of English language world news to the state supported BBC.com. But I doubt that even the most educated Americans are willing to get their news from a British source, even if it is both superior and free.

I’m betting that, when the dust settles, news junkies, intellectuals and informed citizens will pay for the original reporting in the NYtimes.com in lieu of the paper.

And that Mr. Jarvis will be one of the first online subscribers. I know the moment: He will be somewhere mobile, in an airport or traveling, without access to even a $6 copy of the NYTimes in print. He will be following a story and missing the declarative sensibility that the NYTimes has of telling the premiere version of the story. It will be the third or fourth time he’s salivated only to hit a pay wall. And then, he’ll click on the check-out link.

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.


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