Archive for January 2011

NY Times online subscription to be less than $20 per month

Bloomberg reports that the New York Times’ subscription for full web access will cost less than $20 a month. According to Mashable, the service cited a source “familiar with the matter” that print subscribers will get full web access for free and that users will be allowed to access a limited number of articles each month without subscribing.

Like many other publications, The New York Times has struggled with efforts to sell web content. Its effort to charge for select coverage such as articles columnists fell flat. (It didn’t help that the same articles were available in multiple locations through newspapers to which they were syndicated.)

The Times sells subscriptions for Kindle readers for $19.99 per month. The Wall Street Journal, which gives away very little content, sells its online subscriptions for $1.99 per week.

If The Times can make the new plan stick, regional dailies are likely to follow suit. At least, nobody seems to have a better idea.

Tablets may impede newspapers’ efforts to charge for mobile use

When Amazon first began offering Kindle subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, I felt that publishers might have finally found a way to charge people for content they’re currently giving away for free. At prices in the $6-per-month range for most regional dailies, it seemed feasible. For text-oriented magazines, it was even more so, and I’ve been getting my New Yorker on Kindle or Nook (I’m switching back to Kindle, but that’s another story) for more than a year at $2.99 per month.

So if a monochrome reader is a good delivery system, why wouldn’t a more powerful tablet like an iPad or Android be even better?

Quite simply, because the more powerful tablets do too much. They make it too easy to read the news directly on the web, where it’s still free. On my Android, in fact, I’ve deleted all my media “apps” such as those for the New York Times, Washington Post, Slate and Mashable. I’ve found it’s faster and easier just to put those on my iGoogle page (which is really just a very good online RSS reader) and read them through the stock browser.

That means, of course, that the publications lose the opportunity to gain revenues by selling me applications (one of the tablet business models). And as long as I can use my device to easily navigate the full web, they probably can’t sell me monthly subscriptions either. In short, a less powerful gadget in my hand translates into more revenue potential for publishers.

The monochrome e-readers (primarily Kindle and Nook) are very good ways to read newspapers and magazines as long as photos aren’t important. The color tablets provide a better experience, especially for magazines. But if the same content is available on the web, publishers won’t be able to charge for it on color tablets with touch screens. The monochrome readers, on the other hand, are really lousy at web access, so people using them will have more incentive to pay for subscriptions. Another complication is that more and more people have a smartphone that offers a perfectly acceptable way to get to the web for reading the news.

So now, the wild card is which type of product will prevail. iPad/Android or Kindle/Nook? The media have been talking about these products as if they’re all part of the same “tablet” category, but I’m starting to think they may actually coexist indefinitely — especially if the tablets stay in the $400+ range and the readers remain well below $200.

Pew: Internet gains on TV as news source

The Internet has solidified its lead over newspapers as a news source and is gaining on television, according to the latest numbers from the Pew Center for the People and the Press. The Internet passed newspapers in 2008 as a primary news source for consumers as a whole. Those under 50 have preferred the Internet since 2006.

Here’s how the results from December shape up:

  • Television – 66% (down from 74% three years ago)
  • Internet – 41% (up from 24% in 2007)
  • Newspapers – 31% (down from 35% in 2008)
  • Radio – 16%

Among younger respondents, the Internet has already passed television. For those 18 to 29 years of age, 65 now use the Internet as their main news source, compared to 52% who use TV. Older Americans are far more likely to rely on television. Among those 50 to 64, 71% say television is their main news source, followed by 38% citing newspapers and 34% citing the Internet.

Education & income correlate to more Internet use College graduates are more likely to get their news from the Internet (51% compared to 54% for television). Those with household incomes of $75,000 or more are about as likely to get their news from the Internet (54%) as from television (57%).

Local fact-checking web sites could help revive local media

For at least three or four years now, local media have grappled with the challenge of offering something that readers can’t get anywhere else. By the time national news from the Associated Press and Reuters makes the local paper, it’s day-old news at best, and people aren’t willing to pay for what they’ve already read elsewhere.

So what can local media offer? Hard-nosed coverage of state and local issues that don’t make the national agenda. And Now they’re taking a cue from the success of national fact-checking sites like and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Cary Spivak wrote an outstanding article in American Journalism Review on The Fact-Checking Explosion, which is finally beginning to change the behavior of some politicians. Here are some of the regional and local fact-checking initiatives cited by Spivak:


65% of Internet users have paid for online content

Sixty-five percent of Internet users have paid for online content, according to new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. A survey conducted in October and early November asked users whether — and how much — they had paid for 15 different types of content. Here are some highlights:

  • Digital music – 33%
  • Software – 33%
  • Apps for cell phones or tablets – 21%
  • Games – 19%
  • Newspapers, magazines, journal articles or reports – 18%
  • Videos, movies or TV shows – 16%
  • E-books – 10%
  • Adult content – 2%

In May, Pew had found that 65% of Internet users had paid 66% for tangible goods such as books, CDs, toys and clothing.

While those with higher incomes are more likely to pay for online content, percentages do not appear closely correlated with sex or race. Men are a bit more likely to buy software on line, and users between 30 and 49 are most likely to have purchased most types of content. Males were more likely than females to buy adult content.

In analyzing the 35% who have not purchased online content, Pew found that those with less education and lower income were less likely to have purchased online content.