NYTimes.com’s decision: Preliminary thoughts

By Steve Outing

So the long-awaited (well, at least by many of us media geeks) decision by NYTimes.com has been announced. And the winner is:

THE METERED PAYWALL!

According to the Times’ own report, by Richard Perez-Pena:

“Starting in early 2011, visitors to NYTimes.com will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the newspaper’s print edition will receive full access to the site.”

That doesn’t sound like the more nuanced approach to a metered paywall that I espoused on this blog yesterday. Then again, if it won’t be implemented till 2011 (!), there’s still time to create a system that’s less black-and-white and makes more sense.

Until I get a chance to quiz one of the Times execs on this decision, I’ll withhold judgment. Maybe it’s not as bad as it looks (to me) on the surface.

But there’s one quote in Perez-Pena’s piece that drives me up the wall. It’s from Janet Robinson, New York Times Co. president and CEO:

“There’s no prize for getting it quick. There’s more of a prize for getting it right.”

Sounds reasonable, you say? NO. … NYT has been studying this issue for a year; now it will take another year before finalizing and implementing the metered paywall. This is yet another demonstration of the newspaper industry’s conservative nature which has served it so poorly over the last decade and a half (since the first web browser was unleashed on the world).

Let’s see … one year. In the Internet age, the change that will likely occur on the technology scene — which will impact all media publishers profoundly — is probably going to be more than in what we saw in the entire decade or the 1970s or 1980s.

A big theme for 2010 in media will be mobile smart-phones and portable digital tablets; newspaper companies better have that figured out soon. (Perhaps NY Times Digital, with its large technology development staff, is well on its way.) But the Times is still mucking around with the details of its website metered-paywall decision and needs another year? Oy!

There are many things killing off the newspaper industry, and this is one of them. You’ve got to move faster, folks.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!