NYmag says that the NYTimes is set to start charging for it's online content in the next few weeks. Supporting some of my speculation is this bit: "Apple's tablet computer is rumored to launch on January 27, and sources speculate that Sulzberger will strike a content partnership for the new device, which could dovetail with the paid strategy."
- jim 1-18-2010 4:09 pm

Apple sends out an invite which confirms Jan. 27th press event: Come see our latest creation.
- jim 1-18-2010 6:52 pm

Felix Salmon on the NYT paywall.
- jim 1-18-2010 7:19 pm

I subscribe to Salon but will probably pass on the Times because I don't trust them (Judith Miller, etc etc). I didn't subscribe to their columnists when they tried the experiment of putting them behind a for-pay firewall: getting weaned off Maureen Dowd was one of the best things that happened to me.

This is classic Thomas Friedman:

Friedman recently told me by phone. "What was coming to me anecdotally from my travels was the five worst words that as a columnist you ever want to hear: 'I used to read you before you went behind the wall.'"
Uh, that's eleven words.

I will rely on a network of bloggers passing Times excerpts around (mostly it's stuff we hate anyway).
- tom moody 1-18-2010 7:33 pm

theres still wapo and lat. tom got barked at on his page here by a nyt writer for a lengthly quote. i wont be paying extra for nyt.

- bill 1-18-2010 8:54 pm

I think that Times writer was a freelancer but yeah. Here's another fresh example of what I'll be missing without the Times.
- tom moody 1-18-2010 9:28 pm

Yeah, I don't expect anyone here to suddenly start paying for the NYTimes on line. But people here aren't exactly mainstream consumers. My point is more that there is some glimmer of excitement in the publishing industry which has been at the bottom of a deep dark pit of despair for the last couple of years. It's not clear this is going to work (it's not even clear that Apple is actually going to release a tablet computer) but the buzz is pretty interesting. Apple had to drag the music industry kicking and screaming into the online age. Publishers, in contrast, seem to be (everything's just rumor, but there are a lot of them) beating a path to Apple's door. Harper Collins is the latest making the rounds.

We'll know (more) a week from today. I think it will be a 10 inch multi touch tablet (with custom ARM CPU.) Possibly with 3G connectivity from Verizon. And I think, especially given all the hype in the tech press, that a lot of people will be immediately disappointed in an exact replay of the iPod release. "Is that all it is?!!??!?" Because it won't seem completely revolutionary. It will just be an incremental step. But then later, in retrospect, it will turn out to be the incremental step that got us across some threshold. And that threshold will concern two concepts.

One is the top to bottom integration of the device, storage in "the cloud" (I guess "the cloud" is the new way we say "the internet"), and most importantly the App Store. The ease of use stemming from this tight integration will create an economic ecosystem where a lot of people (not just Apple) will make money. Critics will say "but this was all possible before, the tablet didn't bring anything new to the table" and strictly speaking they might be right. But it's often small improvements in ease of use that create huge ripples. Remember when blogger started? It didn't do anything new. It was just a web based replacement for an FTP client. Absolutely no new technology, and yet it created huge change by lowering the bar just enough so that a critical mass of people could come on board and participate. Today anyone *can* do ecommerce on the web. But it doesn't work for most things because the environment isn't set up so that paying feels like it makes sense. For better or worse I think the tablet will change that feeling.

The second is more abstract and has to do with the traditional mouse and keyboard way we currently interact with a hierarchical file based document structure giving way to something else. Tom and I have had this discussion before in the guise of how iTunes (unless you disable this default behavior) sucks your audio files into it's own hidden filesystem and then layers over it in the UI so that you don't have to think about how or where the files are actually stored. They're just "in iTunes". Then combine that disappearance (or at least submersion) of the filesystem with the elevated immediacy of a multi touch interface (where we don't use a mouse to click and choose objects on the screen - we just reach out and touch those objects) and the whole computer UI paradigm begins to change rather drastically. It's still all a metaphor, but no longer seen as one. You don't use a pointer to click on something that represents something else stored somewhere in a file system; you just touch the thing itself. Touch the movie to play it. Pinch the image to enlarge it. Flick something to move it. The iPhone has made this very clear to me. It's still just a user interface to digital data, but it starts to feel like there is no interface, like you're actually interacting directly with the data.

Blah, blah, blah. Not trying to preach, it's just fun to try to look ahead and articulate it.
- jim 1-20-2010 3:11 pm

The NYTimes announces a vague plan to charge for content starting in 2011:

Starting in early 2011, visitors to NYTimes.com will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the newspaper’s print edition will receive full access to the site.

But executives of The New York Times Company said they could not yet answer fundamental questions about the plan, like how much it would cost or what the limit would be on free reading. They stressed that the amount of free access could change with time, in response to economic conditions and reader demand.

For the Times I think this is a huge misstep, but the future is certainly murky so who knows. I think for smaller, more niche publications this might be a way to go, especially as the payment experience gets better. But the NYTimes has a chance to be *the* global news empire, or to at least battle it out with the BBC for top spot in an ever contracting landscape of competitors. Putting up walls doesn't seem like a good move when you have a chance to corner the market. The only way I see this working out is if they use the change as a reason for *increasing* the quality of their product - but it just doesn't seem like Sulzberger cares about that.

Off topic, but related questions for the Times: why did they buy all those smaller failing regional newspapers again? And why did they take on all that debt to build a giant corporate headquarters in NYC at the height of the real estate boom? (And that stake in the Red Sox? WTF?) Who's running that place?
- jim 1-20-2010 3:40 pm

i bet i can answer at least the last part. think the times wanted to diversify their media portfolio and extend their brand by moving into tv. there was talk awhile back of them launching a news show on pbs at 11pm that never materialized though there may be something on msnbcs dead afternoon hours now or there was not long ago.

"The Boston Red Sox are a co-founder and the majority owner (80%) of NESN, with the Boston Bruins owning the remaining 20%. NESN is thus partially owned by the New York Times Company, through its interest in New England Sports Ventures, which owns the Red Sox."
- dave 1-20-2010 4:36 pm

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