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July 14, 2009

Who should pay for online news?

Posted: 12:24 PM ET

Last week the New York Times e-mailed a survey to its print subscribers to ask how they felt about paying for online content.

According to the survey:

The New York Times website,, is considering charging a monthly fee of $5.00 to access its content, including all its articles, blogs and multimedia. All of this content is currently available for free.

The recession has not been kind to print news publishers. Several large newspapers such as The Rocky Mountain News have closed their doors for good, while others like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer have become Web-only publications. But advertising alone may be unable to sustain many news services, and publishers are scrambling to find new online sources of revenue.

Dwindling profits are also causing media companies to become more possessive of the news they generate.

In an article from the New York Times, Associated Press executives say they are concerned about news forums around the Web, including major search engines and aggregators like the Drudge Report, that link to news articles without paying licensing fees.

A group of European publishers is even pushing for new laws restricting online news distribution that, Ars Technica claims, "amounts to a long-winded rant against the Internet for stealing their news."

After years of easily accessible free news online, can the New York Times or any media company successfully retreat to a subscription-based method to monetize and control content?

Would you pay for access?

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Filed under: Internet • online news • technology

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Brian   July 14th, 2009 12:42 pm ET

$0, it should be driven by ad's... just like the rest, well except maybe porn

Jeff Morrison   July 14th, 2009 1:03 pm ET

There will always be a free place to get your news. If they go pay-only, I go elsewhere. They will need to find another way to generate revenue...the expectation has been set and people won't tolerate it.

Paul   July 14th, 2009 1:08 pm ET

It should be driven by ads. Websites stealing articles from other sites is a completely different topic.

Kerry   July 14th, 2009 1:13 pm ET

If the info they carry is of such great importance, people will be willing to pay, but as long as there is a competitor with the same product – info – then it will be hard to justify paying for something you can get for free elsewhere.

Plenty of TV channels are free, yet people still pay for premium content on cable and satellite, so who knows, just stop whining about it and find your niche.

Chris   July 14th, 2009 1:17 pm ET

Good luck with that. Most people will likely just go to the site that offers it for free. If everyone else is charging then that site will get all the traffic and the revenues for ads. I don't see it working.

Marabeth   July 14th, 2009 1:17 pm ET

@Brian – so what you're saying is that you have no problem paying for Porn but would be adverse to actually paying to read news on the internet?
I have a problem with that.
Not every mom & pop business can afford to support websites and personnel costs so that non-subscribers are able to get everything (but porn) for free on the internet.
Why not share in the cost? Do you feel as though the time of the personnel who write the stories, take the photographs, format everything for the web, post it to the web, etc. are of such little value that you cannot be asked to pay a small amount of money?
In essence you do pay for reading this on the internet anyways. The companies advertising just use their resources (ie. money that you're paying for their services, etc.) to fund their ads. I see that Waste Management is a sponsor/advertiser of this page – do you want to see your monthly garbage bill be raised in order for them to do more advertising?

Darren in NH   July 14th, 2009 1:18 pm ET

News on the net will always be free. Companies that try to charge will get such a limited group of customers it wont make a profit and the news will have to be very spcial so other sites cant just as easily get access to it. Why pay when you can watch it for free on the nightly news or on demand? ( I know those have license fees but not direct customer fees ). With online advertising increasing so much new companies will have to find a way to convince advertisers to pay higher fees. With TV viewership down and internet access up advertising is already spending more and more on internet advertising. News companies need to start working for those advertising dollars rather than taking the easy ( and failed ) way out of charging fees. As so many industries in the past have experienced – gone are the good days when the news companies so easily generated so much cash. Adapt or fade away.

Darren in NH   July 14th, 2009 1:20 pm ET

Think of how much of the news is such junk. Think of how much you really are not interested in. Who would pay for a model like that? Online advertising is the only future they have. Even if they try a fee based model they will just die a slow death as competition gives the same thing away for free. Adapt or fade away.

Eddie   July 14th, 2009 2:10 pm ET

The fact is all revenues of news paper and magazine are generated from advertising. Time is changing, all things are moving forward. They can keep up the pace of change. Or drive reader away by greed. The solution is to do better to attract readers so that vendors pay more for advertising. Do they learn anything from Google? Stay the same is not going to help!

sumday   July 14th, 2009 2:30 pm ET

I often wonder if I'm addicted to being angry because I constantly read the news and all it does is make me mad so why should I pay for that. Today’s news seldom have facts but plenty of opinions and incomplete thoughts. The only thing I would pay for is the comment section. When you read an article that makes you mad, is full of mistakes, or opinions rather than facts it makes me mad enough that I would pay to leave my comments. Simply put people want to "contribute" their views and knowledge to a story not simply hear what some wing nut writer has to say with a few facts added here or there. People want to interact and be heard not be spoon fed B.S. I rarely will read an article that I can’t comment on. If they try to charge for news people will just watch in on tv or one person will pay for it then copy and paste the articles and send it to their friends. Better to charge for the interaction of emotions that their articles cause a person to feel because that can’t be copied or downloaded. Also if news groups really want to generate traffic to their site they should stop being the guard dog of the government and go back to being the watch dog for the people.

Dexter   July 14th, 2009 2:53 pm ET

Kerry's cable analogy is a good one. And the Times charging for content is like a-la-carte pricing. It may work for HBO, but most newspapers are more like Comedy Central.

Get a few dozen top news groups together (Times, Post, etc) and charge a monthly fee to access any of them. You can get most news anywhere, but for the latest stuff or best writing, I'd pay for it.

Daniel   July 14th, 2009 6:08 pm ET

There is too much "free" news out there. The last time I bought a paper was when the Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series. I bought it for my father, not for me. Anything I wanted to find out about it, I could find online.

Do I care enough about what the NYT has to say that I would pay for it? No. Would I pay for news in general? No. Making a profit off of sharing of information is just another reason to justify completely locking down the internet and making people pay to access only provider approved websites.

Yohann   July 14th, 2009 6:17 pm ET

I wouldn't pay for online news. If one charges, I move onto the next. If they all charge, I join a free subscription website that screenscrapes news from paid accounts or receives RSS feeds for free.

Perhaps if the newspapers would innovate a bit better and get in touch with its readers and get them involved. Me paying them isn't going to happen, so they need to get used to it. If these newspapers offered something extra worthwhile for subscribers, rather than take the news away if one doesn't pay, readers wouldn't leave to go somewhere else.

Personally, reporters have earned a bad rap by hyped up coverage of events that become boring within a day or two, but they insist on covering the same story for weeks just to push for their precious Pulitzer Prize, which any non-reporter could care less about. Most of the news is of negative events, so how about reporting positive stories instead. When news is negative, I don't even want to watch it let alone pay for it.

And how about positive stories of universities that are doing positive things for their students and programs, reported by students? I might pay for that.

Jeff   July 14th, 2009 6:31 pm ET

We are moving into an age where Knowledge is free. And I love it.

Jim   July 14th, 2009 9:02 pm ET

I remember when CNN tried charging for online video news. Did that work? No. Other online news sites offered the online video for free. The internet is just a tool. It offers the news in a different way where people can become more active participants. If anything, an online community offers to help a news website more. Look at i-report, online surveys, and blogs like this. You can get input from thousands of people. This is something you would never get with a subscription news site. If anything, online news sites where users can actively participate help news companies in new ways that were never done before. Also, there is so much competition between news agencies that I don’t see charging for content ever working. If news agencies start charging for their content, they are going to lose their users and lose a very valuable tool for information gathering.

Der Wolfanwalt   July 14th, 2009 9:42 pm ET

I'm honestly starting to wonder if anybody at the Associated Press understands how the Internet works. Drudge, or any old blogger, by linking to a story on the AP's sites, isn't doing anything wrong legally, and it isn't causing harm to the AP in the slightest. If these morons stopped to think about it, any link posted on another site would drive traffic to the AP...which would be a good thing by any rational standard.

...Seriously, people.

Jordan in Uath   July 14th, 2009 9:51 pm ET

If the NY Times is not getting enough views to keep there web page running by adds, Then what makes them think they will by subscriptions? It is not like they are offering a superior that you can't get anywhere else, for free. why would i want to pay to see the NY times site and content when i can get the news from a better and big site like CNN or the BBC News. Sorry Times but it is Time to except the times we live in. News print is out and FREE constantly updated websites and news channels are in. Ether adapt or wind up in the history books.

columbusweb   July 15th, 2009 12:30 am ET

I agree – if it's not free, people will go where it is free. With that in mind, they should think about their advertisers – less traffic overall to their site (and there WILL be A LOT less traffic if they do that) means less exposure for their advertisers. Bad business move if you ask me...especially for a site that gets the kind of traffic as the NY Times does. My thought is you justify charging more for the advertising by touting the incredible increased exposure they get BECAUSE of web traffic vs. what they got in just print readership before.

Imam Mahmudi   July 15th, 2009 12:32 am ET

It is understood that recession hits almost everyone. NY times is trying to make a breakthrough.

In my opinion, its new way will work if all press publishers do the same way together.. I hardly believe it works. It is kind of mission impossible.

Please do the survey before decide it.

Hope it help.

Chris in Oregon   July 15th, 2009 3:22 am ET

This has been tried in the past many times, and has always failed. I don't know what they are thinking, but they seem to be behind the times.

Gary in Connecticut   July 15th, 2009 7:46 am ET

The fact that the nyt is seriously considering such an idea (again)confirms they remain completely out of touch with reality. Who wants to pay for stupid?

Steve   July 15th, 2009 9:20 am ET

It is unrealistic to think that news should be completely free. Every magazine and newspaper that people got when it was print was partly paid for by ads and the rest was paid for by the people to get it delivered. The internet does not make everything free and as we move forward in technology less and less will be free so the consumer may as well get used to it if they want to have them. The competition between news agencies to provide information will be strong, which will mean they are going to want to drive more ads to lower the cost to the consumer. But there will be a price to it.

Anna   July 15th, 2009 9:42 am ET

Quality comes at a price and I would have no problem paying for good journalism and reliable information. I would prefer those over free information from tertiary sources or any hearsay on the web. I'm interested in well-researched stories and backstories. The free content reproduced by amateurs is good to get the headlines, but to get depth and background – reliable and dependable information as grounds for decisions as well as opinions and standpoints – there's no way around professional journalism, which needs to be paid and cannot be paid for just through advertising.

Clayfield   July 15th, 2009 10:23 am ET

In the old days we had radios and TV that nightly gave us news for free. This always had a bias and an agenda and still does. Then fee based cable broadcasters started wih an even greater agenda and bias. So perhaps these sources only catered to their own interested /indoctrrinated audience and continued agendas.

The fact is that practically none of MSM sources report the real news .It is only recently through the internet and certain radio sources that have courageously and freely confront this MSM rubbish and sensationalism that we have an opportunity to learn and assess the truth and challenge the forces that keep us dumbed down and ignorant of what is really going on.

Indeed why should we pay money for propaganda that is against our personal freedoms and civil rights? They cannot control the internet. It is a loose cannon that has undermined their agenda and we are now awake and aware of the horrendous plan that they had for us all and which is unravelling. Who cares about Pailin and her rubbish? Who cares about the idiotic stuff paraded as news?

The sooner the MSM realises their folly the better but the changes to our economic structure are now underway and things will never the bethe same again. Life as we know it is going to change so radically in the next few years we will hardly recognise it. We need to take back our power and ignore the idiculous attempts to enslave us eternally to their agenda of mindless ignorance. The revolution has begun and is daily gathering momentum as the population wakes up.

We now demand integrity and honesty in government and will settle for no less. An end to all wars now.... bring our warriors home immediately and end the worthless pursuits of the military/industrial complex and the divisions of humanity. We are all one and when we harm one we harm all. Disclosure of our interaction with other Galactic civilisations far advanced than ours will revolutionise our existences almost overnight and we will have a wonderful future free of the anxieties that dog our lives.... The evidence is so overwhelming and why is it not reported in the MSM? Go to and get educated and GRTnews and find out the truth of our reality.
Look at the real figures of ET contact that many of us have experienced. We re not stupid. We know a different reality to that which is being pumped through MSM. Presidents since Truman have been aware of the ET interaction with the military/industrial complex through black ops and many good people have been killled for attempting to state the truth. You have to find your own truth not believe the rubbish that is broadcast in a idiotic attempt to keep us "entertained and ignorant". Have courage and find your own truth free of is out there. We should not have to pay for truth.

Dennis   July 15th, 2009 12:02 pm ET

Sure! I would (haha) "absolutely" pay for content. But my idea of a payable fee is radically different from the providers.

Some sites want to charge me dollars per month to view their content. I want to pay dollars (small) per year. Others want me to pay dollars per article. I think per-article fees are not going to get it... I uniformly will not pay them.

Jon   July 15th, 2009 12:26 pm ET

If their news was worth reading, they shouldn't have any trouble generating enough profits from advertising.

I'll never pay just to be informed of news. There will always be a free source somewhere, even television.

Now that will be $5 for reading my comment.

Wiz   July 15th, 2009 12:26 pm ET

It's a good thing I didn't have to pay to read this article asking if I'd pay to read an article.

On a serious note, if I'm going to pay for news content, I'd really like to see some good writing – with correct grammar and word usage. CNN is especially bad ( is slightly behind, but catching up fast) about not proofing articles before posting them. It seems apparent that spell-checking is about all that gets done. A recent article contained 5 significant errors, one of which rendered the sentence indecipherable: "He said the then was".

I see numerous errors on every day – why would I want to pay for poorly written articles?

Joe   July 15th, 2009 12:45 pm ET

Are you kidding me? That's the whole point of the internet is that its a huge information base, per say where information is free.

Good luck with that awful business model.

David   July 15th, 2009 1:25 pm ET

The model is in place for newspapers, etc. to make free content available while surviving. Google made $8 billion dollars last year. A large percentage of which came from advertising. For corporations or mom and pop shops to provide free content they must adapt their formats to placing and profiting from advertisements. As a side note, if the Times decides to charge for content, I'll simply go elsewhere.

Dingleden   July 15th, 2009 1:27 pm ET

I would be willing to pay a monthly fee for news content, but only if the web site reported "facts" only, and left the unsupported, personal agenda, biased, opinionated, half-truth hogwash to those "commentators" on the media circus.
I consider myself to have enough intelligence to make up my own mind.

Kyle   July 15th, 2009 2:18 pm ET

Well this is the big question going forward for MS print media. There is one main reason these guys are in trouble right now: they report the news from yesterday.

99% of the stuff in their paper happened the day before at best. And when something big does happen, they latch onto it like a tick hoping to sell more papers.

If companies like the NYT want to survive, they will stop reporting the news and instead switch to two main things that will differentiate themselves from everyone else: investigative journalism and (as unbiased as possible) analysis. The former they already do. The latter they try to do and fail typically because their pieces reflect one viewpoint. Many would call it a liberal bias but it goes both ways.

What they should do is get a group together representing the main political viewpoints and, in effect, offer 3 articles minimum on each story. They would be: Conservative, moderate, and Liberal. And don't use the crazy people on either side that 90% of the general population disagrees with... use people that use rational arguments rather than try to create buzzwords.

Perfect example would be the current CIA coverup story:
C: This was something needed for national security post 9/11. Also, it never actually resulted in even a proposed mission so Congress did not need to be told. The Dems are trying to persecute those that have prevented another terrorist attack on the US for nearly 8 years.

L: This represents another secret program run by Bush that was illegally covered up and hidden from Congressional oversight. An investigation should be launched immediately. This is just another in a long history of the CIA doing illegal acts under the Bush Administration.

M: (And my personal view): This is something that is on the border. While I do strongly believe that any operation or program run by the CIA and others should be given proper oversight, the need for secrecy and the fact that not one mission was suggested from this program makes me think that the Dems are making an issue out of a non-issue. If there was a program that actually had operations that was covered up in a similar way I would be much more concerned, but not with something that basically died in the conference rooms of CIA.

John   July 15th, 2009 5:00 pm ET

In a word, no.

Sean   July 15th, 2009 5:07 pm ET

Everyone likes free stuff, but sooner or later you need to support what you are doing.

Press is one of the things that keeps checks and balances with the government and needs to stay strong in any free society. It can't get to a point where government bails it out, for this would be a conflict of interest in my opinion.

I say start offering premium content to face book, twitter, google and yahoo for a small amount of money. Include the comics, job offerings, commentary and in depth coverage to the service for maybe $4 – $5 a month.

Offer breaking news, but only shortened versions of the stories for free.

Jake   July 15th, 2009 5:59 pm ET

I'll start off by regurgitating what everyone else has already said; we live in a world where free news is a few key strokes and a click of a button away. With that in mind, you arn't going to be able to go backwards and make people pay for it. That's something they'll have to face.

But perhaps they know this already. Perhaps they just wanted some free advertising for themselves. Because if it wasn't for this article I wouldn't even of though of the NYT, but I actually thought about going on there because of this; and I bet other people actually did go on.

So maybe it's a marketing ploy on their behalf, who knows.

eman   July 15th, 2009 6:44 pm ET

They should just stop their print service Newspapers are expensive to print and deliver daily. MOST of that expense is covered by advertisers, and your subscription fees pay the rest.

With Internet, you don't have the expense of TONS of paper being manufactured, shipped, printed, cut, folded and delivered every day.

Sure you have to pay for bandwidth, servers, system administrators, etc. But that pales in comparison to the cost of newsprint. If you can't cover your cost with ad revenues then you don't know how to operate in todays' world.

Besides, newspapers publish more content in the paper than they do in they publish on-line. If anyone cared about these stories, then they would subscribe. It's jst like paying for unique content from premium cable channels, except HBO and Cinemax actually have content worth paying for.

The real problem is that Internet advertising is based upon performance. If nobody clicks, then you don't get paid. That's really stupid, since advertisers are willing to pay for print ads that most paper reader never look at. Put the ads in the content so people have to see then as they read a story. If circulation numbers are worthy of paying, then unique views of their internet ads should merit a similar price.

With all the junk reporting and made up stories that the NY Times is notorious for, I wouldn't be upset to see them vanish from the face of the earth. I live in Denver and couldn't care less that the Rocky Mountain News is gone. One less waste of energy and natural resources, and fewer salesmen knocking on my door, trying to sell a subscription to a paper that will just pile up and need to be thrown away without ever being read.

ez-e   July 15th, 2009 6:47 pm ET

I don't read the paper anymore. It's old news before it ever gets printed. Most or the news has already been published electronically the day before. Embrace technology or perish along with the other dinosaurs.

david   July 15th, 2009 8:21 pm ET

ill pay the 5 dollars if they exclude ads. its worth it to me not to have to put up with ads. but i should not have to pay to see ads. Something i have unbelievable disdain for at the local movie theatre. I pay 10 dollars to see a movie, and am subjected to 15 minutes of commercials for Pepsi and Kraft cheese. Makes me sick

Mark   July 16th, 2009 9:30 am ET

Frankly, we have all been paying for the news for years, and never complained. How many of you subscribe to the newspaper, or pay a cable bill to watch the news, or pick up a magazine at a newsstand? Everybody does it, even if just for that one article that caught your eye. I believe that information should be free, but how much of it actually is? The business model may not be infallible, but its the same one that has worked for decades with other forms of media. Ad revenue may be the main form, but subscriptions power the beast, and prove that people are still willing to pay for talking heads opinions.

Andyman   July 17th, 2009 9:13 am ET

I'm afraid the genie is out of the bottle on this one. Then again, who would've thought people would pay for bottled water?

sr'   July 17th, 2009 1:56 pm ET

I believe that the content should be paid for and that sites such as Drudge Report and other aggregators should be forced to pay for their feeds from such sites as nytimes or cnn.
We cannot afford to have free sites exist without any actual real live reporters and have something like the ny times go under. The press as we know it would cease to exist. Nothing in life is free and the news should not be either. People need jobs and a purpose. Save the press and you save a lot of people. Keep believing you deserve everything for free and then ask yourself when you wake up one day why you don't have a job and are asking for free food or money from the government.

wilson   July 20th, 2009 1:53 pm ET

I wouldn't like to pay for online news but can understand the reasons behind it. For decades people got all of their news through print. Now we have the internet and TV, making it extremely difficult for news papers and magazines to survive. Will charging users fees for something they have been using for free work? Probably not. There are too many other websites and news outlets that we don't have to pay for.

Joe Luedtke   July 20th, 2009 1:56 pm ET

News services need a monetization strategy for content. Their historical almost-monopoly on content was only made possible due to the barriers of entry into the print industry and the need for local access to content. The internet has flattened the world eliminating and broke down all those barriers to entry.

They desperately need a monetization strategy. Is ad-supported content effective/profitably enough? It doesn't seem so. Would a paid-subscription model work? If people value the content enough. As many commenters note on this article, this strategy works for porn. So the question becomes does our society value good, in-depth reporting versus more or less than naked pictures?

Coaster   July 20th, 2009 10:27 pm ET

Well, I'd have to see real news content of all sorts. Not just what makes the cut. Human interest, local by locals, everything. But I'd expect the poor grammar and typos and drivel to be GONE. I'd have to see the whining one upmanship gone. I'd have to see the bias and political correctness gone. I'd have to see something called a "well written article" with every article. And NO MORE of those awful flash loops of the TV version of the story. If I wanted the TV version, or any video at all, I would have watched TELEVISION.

The free content we get now has unfortunately, begun quite a downward spiral as far as quality. I don't buy newspapers, but I can only hope the print versions of the articles go through some extra editing and cleanup processes.

I do agree that the print news was operating on an old business model, and that progress is change, and without change, you stagnate and die. As evidenced. I hope that online news is taking a good look at their own business models, because if things don't change, we're going to all be getting our news in 140 characters or less.

cjules00   July 21st, 2009 12:49 pm ET

An Airline wants to charge extra for food and checked bags? Impossible – no one would pay, they'd just fly a different airline.

And now we all pay extra for snacks and checked bags.

News agencies exist to make money. They're not doing that through print anymore, so the next logical step is to increase revenue from electronic media. Fee based news sites are not a "step backwards" anymore than airline fees and surcharges. Once one company starts to do it, the rest will as well.

The key for consumers is for us to use this change to force news agencies to post actual news worth paying for, by avoiding the trash journalism sites.

Doug504   July 21st, 2009 1:17 pm ET

Lot's of people say "I'll just go elsewhere for the news". But there really aren't that many companies that originate news – the 5 national news channels, AP, UPI, Reuters, BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and maybe a couple others.

Everybody else just copies the stories produced by those 10-15 companies. If all 15 companies strictly enforced a licensing/subscription model, the Drudge Report, Google, and all the rest would have to pay for the stories.

Ultimately, Drudge, Google, etc would have to find a way to cover the cost. And charging their own readers would be one option.

BTW this is exactly what happens when you read a national story in your local newspaper. The local paper paid a fee to one or more of those 15 companies for the right to publish the story.

Anonymous   August 7th, 2009 12:51 am ET

I don't even pay for porn, and I like porn more than I like the news. Why would anyone pay for anything on the internet? everything can be run off of ads

Luke Parker   December 17th, 2011 10:36 pm ET

OMG, do you see whats taking place in Syria? In spite of a brutal government crackdown, the manifestations continue

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