Beginning sometime in 2011, The New York Times will implement a metered service charge for access to its popular online site NYTimes.com. I cannot help but feel a little bit guilty, since my actions no doubt contributed to the company's revenue crisis. I feel like I have become a Print Killer.
As I mentioned previously, after 20 years I am no longer a subscriber of the Times print edition. Instead, I get a digital version of the newspaper delivered instantly and electronically to my Kindle 2 for a much cheaper price. In addition, I have also ended my subscription to Time magazine and other print publications since I usually read most of their content online anyway. Stop me before I kill again!
The troubles in the print industry, however, go beyond declining circulation figures. They include plummeting advertising sales, increased competition from New Media, changing habits in how the public gets its news, and most importantly the media industry's own flawed business practices. Over the years, journalism has dumbed itself down and also in many ways has failed to keep up with the changing world it covers. The result is that print news is a dinosaur compared to its electronic peers. While the print medium still has many strengths, it has failed to adapt its business models and fully take advantage of new technology and new trends.
I have shared my thoughts on the whole Print vs. Electronic debate before. I think the proposed pay plan by The New York Times for its Web content is a good one. It still offers everyone who browses the Internet some stories for free but if they want more they will have to pay. Until online ad rates build into a viable revenue source, content providers have to be creative and find new ways to pay the bills. I still disapprove of passing the cost completely to the consumer since this will hurt lower income readers and it will confirm the "elitist" label that some news organizations already have (and it is unrealistic to assume that people who can't afford the new fees can get all their news from computers at public libraries -- they will just move on to free content and bypass the pay-per-view sites.)
While I continue to feel some angst about my part in the transition to New Media, Print is not dead. I still subscribe to the print edition of the Times' Book Review which, combined with my Kindle-version Times subscription, allegedly will still give me full access to NYTimes.com when it implements its new online pay model. I still subscribe to print editions of Entertainment Weekly and a number of science fiction and movie/TV magazines.
So do I have blood on my hands for the troubles that print media are facing? You tell me. Until then I weep for the death of a totally free NYTimes.com.