There’s a lot of wisdom in this “newsonomics” piece by Ken Doctor about the New York Times new policy of paid access to their digital versions. It’s one of the best analysis I’ve read of the economics around the inevitable migration away from paper to the screen.
For the most part you can replace the word “New York Times” with almost any publisher of paper media and the piece would represent the concerns at work in the media world today.
I especially like Ken Doctor’s term of “pay fence” instead of paywall, since a fence is more porous and easier to jump.
There’s no rulebook here, and all newspapers testing these waters are nervous, consequently, about the initial digital pricing. Listen to NYT competitor and WSJ publisher Les Hinton talk last week about the print/online/mobile transition – noting its inevitability, but then pointing to the ungainly and hard-to-control process ahead: “The issue is balancing out the migration.”
Let’s remember that the launch is just a moment in time. The pay model will play out over months and years, as publishers seek to reverse more than a decade of habit, and the free-news world morphs (witness AOL’s comings and goings) all around it.
We as consumers won’t be making a one-time decision. We expect that the news products (and services) we’re offered will get better over time.