I’ve strongly criticized Mexican newspaper Reforma for maintaining a paid content model for their online presence. I thought it unimaginable that in 2010 a newspaper still charged for content. It is, however, the first Mexican newspaper I check online and the one I read the most. I do it only because my parents being paper subscribers, I get to use their online account. Reforma offers high-quality content but its site design hasn’t changed in a long time. Still, it’s my first choice.
The recent announcement of the NY Times, in which they introduce their new long-term strategy to increase online revenue by setting up a “pay wall” for frequent visitors to nytimes.com (incidental readers will have a set amount of articles they can pull up for free) turns out to be very similar to what I think Reforma has had in mind all this time. I’ve seen Reforma.com giving out “free access” to content more and more in the last year and that is exactly what the new model at the NYT will look like (they are postponing the launch of this new model until January 2011). Browse superficially, don’t pay. Want more and more pages, subscribe. People like me are loyal to a news source and therefore more willing to pay for it content.
I’m not suggesting that the way Reforma.com has operated in the last 10 years has been the ideal one. They come across as slow, old-fashioned and not forward thinking. However, I’m sure that with this announcement, more and more newspapers and news outlets will adopt this type of model. I think Reforma will start giving out more free content to attract incidental and superficial readers and will also enhance their monetization efforts for loyal visitors. At the end of the day, both newspapers will meet in the same place after going through very different paths.
I’m comfortable with the NYT’s new model. Whenever my browser ends up in one of their pages or articles and I want to read it, I just make a small note on my Kindle and then look up that article in my Kindle subscription to the Times. I won’t have to become a paying “frequent reader” because I already pay Amazon Digital Services $14 a month. Did you notice the last words in bold? That’s the reason digital readers/tablets/Kindles are a whole different story. A story in which, I think, the true secret to sustainable revenue lies within.