In a move that may herald the shape of the near future of online news, the New York Times has announced it will charge for online news starting early 2011. Visitors to the site will get a limited amount of content free before paying a flat fee for continued access.
Media companies have been struggling to find a way of generating revenue streams from their content. The Financial Times already works a similar system to that proposed by the NYT but most UK Papers offer free web content while their hard copies are charged for.
Some media billionaires, including Rupert Murdoch, have been wrangling with Google over the fact that they provide unpaid links to news companies’ content. NYT‘s move raises possibilities of online newsPapers affiliating to replace Google News with a partially paid new search site and “subscribe-to-one, access-to-all” formulas, according to David Coursey for the PC World blog.
But will browsers be willing to pay for content, or will they just look for free content elsewhere? The findings of an Outsell study of news usage in the US during 2009 suggest that newsPapers may find attracting paying customers to their online content difficult.
“Only 10 percent of news users are willing to pay for a print newsPaper subscription to gain online access. Seventy-five percent say they’d turn to a different source for local online news if their newsPapers required a paid subscription" the study found.