Interesting discussion on why the charge model that so many major newspapers have been using for years is backwards: Providing free access to the last 30 days’ worth of material, then charging you to access the archives. We normally regard old news as being of limited value. “Yesterday’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper.” Or bird cage lining. A charge model in line with our normal view of the value of old vs. new news would turn that around.
The problem with the NYT’s system is that it ensures that the Times can’t be the paper of record any longer, because even if a thousand bloggers point to a great article on the day it comes out, thirty days later it will be invisible to the 99.999 percent of the Web who won’t pay for access to fishwrap, no matter how interesting.
Wired suggests the reason for the inversion is to protect the value of Lexis-Nexis, but I’m not sure I buy that. I think newspapers are just doing their best to find a workable business model for the web (still!), but not quite getting it.
Personally, I’m still fond of the multi-tiered Salon model: Give part of the article away for free, let people set up a temporary one-day free membership to gulp all the content they want, and offer two levels of yearly subscription (with or without ads). For the past couple of years, I’ve been motivated enough by Salon’s content to pay the yearly sub (with ads). And their freebies are nice too.
I don’t think publishers need to tear down the paywalls — they just need to figure out the real culture of the web audience, deliver content that’s more compelling than repackaged print copy, and find subscription models that actually motivate.