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Just like Bluto stated in in this famous scene (1:24) from “Animal House,”When the going get tough, the tough get going.” This is exactly what The New York Times is about to do.
In order to combat the downturn in circulation over the past several years, newspapers are doing everything they can to stay afloat. Reporters are being laid off and sections of the paper have been eliminated in efforts to save money, but yet publications are still shutting down. However, the world’s most respected daily isn’t giving up just yet in its effort to generate new revenue streams.
With more than 17 million visitors per month, nytimes.com is taking a major risk in January 2011 when it starts charging flat fees for full access to its site. Since this news came out last week, PR pros have passionately weighed in on whether or not this strategy can be a successful one. I think it can, but it’s not for everyone.
What happens when a country, business, or any other entity needs help? More times than not, the big boys come in and try to rescue them out of crisis, right? Or at the very least they will lead the discussion on how to reverse the situation. This is what I believe The New York Times (NYT) is doing, and rightly so. You can’t expect a smaller newspaper to go out on a limb and take this sort of measure. This isn’t to say that smaller outlets don’t have the creativity to come up with a solution such as this. The fact of the matter is that NYT has many elements already in place that can make this change in philosophy a success:
A worldwide audience
It is largely considered the best source for news
Some of the most talented reporters in the world call it home
Steps have been taken towards integrating with social media networks (2.3 million subscribers on Twitter)
And most importantly to PR pros, NYT is still the no. 1 newspaper outlet that clients want to be in.
While it may be more challenging to attract the average person to subscribe, NYT has a lot going in its favor – mainly that it provides content that you can’t find anywhere else. And if subscribing to the site helps publicists share content and new pitch angles, then don’t you think clients will be willing to spend a few extra bucks for that type of insight? I do. And there is certainly no shortage of clients.
As I discussed a few paragraphs back, there are smaller newspapers that have tried similar approaches and have failed. Take Newsday for example. With a circulation greater than 400,000, this Long Island (NY) newspaper began a pay model in October 2009 with similar hopes as NYT. But after just three months, only 35 subscribers have signed-up to pay $5 per week for Newsday.com, which averages 2 million visitors per month. Is this because they are charging too much? Did they not put together a campaign to build enthusiasm internally and externally for this? Did they launch this prematurely? Many questions are left to be answered, and both Newsday and NYT’s approach will make for interesting case studies.
So what do you think? Will newspapers like The New York Times succeed with this pay model? Do regional and local outlets have the same opportunities? Please vote in the poll below and lets find out!