Thursday, September 30, 2010

A New Approach to Newspaper Websites

The survival of newspapers in the digital age is a concern for anyone who values the analysis and critical commentary that a good newspaper offers. Raw, unfiltered news is widely and freely available on the Internet, and newspapers and other print publications are struggling to survive in a world where people are hostile to the idea of paying for news. How can newspaper websites generate revenue so that they can continue to employ the journalists who create the content? Rupert Murdoch has put many of his newspapers behind a paywall; it appears that The Wall Street Journal is thriving in the online environment (unique content?), while The Times of London has been less successful in attracting paying customers. For earlier OOTJ coverage of the Murdoch newspapers and their paywalls, click here. The New York Times is erecting a paywall that will go live in January 2011, and it's reasonable to assume that this experiment will be watched closely, especially since an earlier attempt at charging for the online newspaper was a failure that was abandoned rather quickly. No details about the Times paywall have been announced.

Today's Boston Globe is reporting that the Globe is going to try a different approach that will debut in the second half of 2011. Instead of having one site for all content, the paper is going to host two sites. will remain a free site with "limited access to journalism" but with "breaking news, sports, and weather ... as well as classified advertising, social networking, and information about travel, restaurants and entertainment." The Boston Globe Lite? The new site,, will be "designed to closely approximate the experience of reading the paper's print version [and] will contain all the stories and other content from the day's paper as well as exclusive reports, in-depth news, analysis, commentary, photos and graphics, plus video and interactive features." Subscribers to the print paper will have access to for free, a model I wish other publishers would emulate. No price has been set yet for the digital-only subscription. To read the press release about the two websites, click here. It will be interesting to see how this new approach develops, and if it will generate enough revenue to pay for the Globe's newsgathering operation.

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