The newspaper business seems to be in a world of hurt these days. Several local papers are closing or threatening to close their doors. This got me thinking about my favorite paper, The New York Times, and how I would hate to see that paper meet a similar fate. Most people would probably agree that newspapers need to start charging for their online content. That might be hard for a lot of lesser newspapers, but The New York Times is a paper that offers high quality content, interactive features and portability (e.g. iPhone).
So how would it work? I think Skype has a reasonable model that the paper could emulate. The Skype Out service charges either a per minute fee, for outbound calls to standard phones, or a very reasonable monthly fee for unlimited calling (currently $2.95 a month for unlimited domestic calls). Skype lets you bank a $10 credit for the pay-as-you-go model and you can set up your account to auto-recharge when the balance gets low. This makes it pretty painless to keep spending money which is critical to adoption.
Here’s what I’d be willing to pay for NYT content under a Skype-like model:
- Micro-payment per article: $0.02 – $0.05 (more for interactive or extended content)
- Low monthly fee for unlimited access: $4.95/mo. or $49.95/yr.
- Include a new and improved iPhone app (or Blackberry or Palm Pre) with a monthly subscription. The current NYT app is achingly slow and crashes frequently. Make it more like the USA Today app but with dramatically better content.
p.s. I know that the NYT is available on Kindle for a monthly subscription fee, but $13.95 a month is just too expensive to see a broad subscriber base.