The NY Times has announced a new “metered model” for 2011, showing that Rupert Murdoch is not the only publish magnate struggling to cope with the “internet.” While the Times has avoided confronting Google, a wise move given the current cooing of this monopolistic privacy shredding behemoth, the “metered approach” brings to mind two things: 1920′s prohibition and the maginot line.
As a blogger, I am excited by the prospect of a NY Times pay-per-content model because I am a media startup with little-to-no-overhead who does not charge directly for my content. Thus, when consumers decide between paying for the Goal Blog or getting me for free, I am pretty sure a few will decide FreeMe or “Frelliott.” But Frelliot alone does not tell the tale…
Let’s take a quick look at the history of press. Monks handwrote books. They were way too expensive for all but the most educated and Latin speaking of the world. Some dude invented the printing press – information could now be disbursed widely at a reasonably profit per head. This was a major shift philosophically and economically – from the elite model to the populism amok.
The internet has tossed a heavy heap of gasoline on the populist information fire. The past printers who had a quasi monopoly on the mass distribution and publication of information can no longer count on that monopoly. The barriers to entry and the cost mean the “blog” has put the traditional media conglomerates under direct attack. Before, a journalism degree required a self-deprecating sense of humor – now it entails a serious pay cut.
More importantly, consumers have control over the media they consume and when they consume it. Since CNN, 24 hour news consumption has increased, and more people are consuming media than ever before. The Murdoch reaction – banning his content from search engines, overlooks a simple fact: search engines have replaced the paper boy and delivered readers for free. Plus, Yahoo does not toss the paper in your window, eliciting a serious of shouting “Deeeennnniiissss.”
So what will happen with this metered system? Well, the Times has a great reputation it can live off for at least half a century. But when you look beyond the name, the failure to grapple with shifting business models has done in other past reputable companies. Is the meter a short-term gamble to stave off financial woes while they acclimate to the 21st century? I hope so. I love the Times and have great respect for the Goal Blog.
But the meter reminds me too much of the ill fated Maginot line employed by the French in World War 2. Yes, they will stop the barbarians from a direct assault, but bloggers will just creep in through Belgium. One of us will pay for content, cite it without a link, and then we will cite that guy. The Times could sent angry emails and revoke accounts, but would such gag-orders be effective? Or good publicity?
Right now, the established media is playing behind the ball. The fact the Times has PPC ads from Google, which any Payday loan credit site can pop money into, shows how 2004 the business model is. In the internet age, 5 years is an eternity – the difference Netscape and Firefox and Chrome. The traditional media has a slender 1-0 lead, is down a man, but here’s the problem: the competition gets a Sir Alex Ferguson dream of unlimited injury time. The media can run, chug, foul, and scower, but only a change in tactics to offense can get them out of this hole. First they have to stop digging.