NYTimes Sets Itself Free

times_select.gif Two years ago the New York Times made its best marketing estimate of how to derive income from the web, and put many of its back stories beyond a paywall called TimeSelect, at $49.95/year or $7.95/month. Times change:
In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free.

The Times said the project had met expectations, drawing 227,000 paying subscribers — out of 787,000 over all — and generating about $10 million a year in revenue.

“But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site, NYTimes.com.

What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com. These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.

“What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others,” Ms. Schiller said.

Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site, By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, New York Times, September 18, 2007

This is why it’s a bad idea to let the telcos and cablecos determine what we can see or do on the web. Nobody can predict what will work best, especially for deriving revenue.

Hm, this would also mean that the duopoly’s insistence on TV as the future of Internet revenue could be just as wrong for them as it is for the rest of us.


PS: Seen on BoingBoing.