From guess what publication, “Times’s Online Pay Model Was Years in the Making“:
The Times announced its new subscription plan last week to widespread debate. Many readers and bloggers said they were happy to be able to finally pay for their frequent use of the Web sites, while many others — joined by some industry analysts and pundits — said that The Times was dangerously out of step with the digital age and that the approach was doomed to fail.
The same debate raged inside The Times, with executives and senior editors sometimes heatedly taking sides. In the middle was Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of the company, who grew to embrace the idea of a pay model. But he was opposed by several senior executives, especially those who had worked to build NYTimes.com into the most visited newspaper site in the world.
The risks were manifold. The company might jeopardize its huge online reach, and no one could predict what would happen to digital advertising, which had gone from being a drop in the bucket to more than a quarter of The New York Times Company’s overall advertising revenue…
Executives studied a variety of online business models including those used by Weight Watchers, which charges $17.95 a month plus a $29.95 initiation fee for weight loss guidance, and Apple’s iTunes service, which popularized the micropayment with the 99-cent song download. They even looked at a donation model and at creating a digital newsstand where people could buy The Times as part of a bundle with subscriptions to local papers and national papers like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post…
“I believe that our journalism is very worth paying for,” said Jill Abramson, The Times’s managing editor for news. “In terms of ensuring our future success, it was important to put that to the test.”
So… I guess this is the Big Media equivalent of that sitcom episode where Mom gets the idea into her head that the family needs more variety / sophistication / nutrition, so she works and plans and slaves over a hot stove for hours to put together a complicated menu involving ingredients that she can barely pronounce (complete with hilarious misunderstandings-at-the-local-supermarket segment). When she finally serves up the results, still smoking slightly from the kooky burnt-potholder sight gags, everybody just stares at it… until Hapless Dad or the Middle-Kid Straight Man says something dubious like “What are the little green bits?” or “Is it supposed to quiver like that?” And then there is a Big Comic Explosion, and door-slammings, and if there’s still an extra few minutes to fill, hijinks involving either burnt toaster waffles or a bollixed pizza delivery.
I hope the Times will be offering a “smart app” for “multiple platforms” of Artie Jr. storming off to the corner office, followed by the sound of gusty sobs leaking around the edges of its hand-crafted zebrawood door. Because it is always a good marketing decision to give the customers what they really want.