Media

NY Times will build its digital empire on (metered) quality journalism

The New York Times is moving forward this quarter with its plan to put paid metering on its stories on the internet. And it believes it can do so because of its emphasis on quality journalism, says the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger.

Print media such as the New York Times are under increasing pressure to fend off free internet-based competition. But Sulzberger believes that it isn’t too late to start charging for content that users have become accustomed to getting for free (or at least ad supported). After all, people have to have something good to tweet, and a New York Times story is tweeted every 4 seconds, he said.

Speaking at the opening session at Digital Life Design conference in Munich today, Sulzberger said the company will continue to thrive and change quickly in the digital era, serving readers on any device where they want to read news. He spoke in conversation with Hubert Burda, co-chairman of DLD and head of German publisher Hubert Burda Media.

“Wherever people want us, we must be there,” Sulzberger said.

He said he was encouraged about how newspapers can thrive in the digital world, since 80 percent of the company’s advertisers have moved into digital advertising, in addition to advertising in the newspaper. The New York Times started its news web site 15 years ago and plans to start charging for web content this quarter. Sulzberger said he was optimistic about the future of newspapers since the number of loyal readers who have subscribed for two or more years has gone up from 650,000 to 800,000.

“Print will be around a lot longer than most people think,” he said, noting that radio didn’t make print obsolete.

Sulzberger said he remains concerned about news becoming a commodity and how “lies travel faster than the truth on the internet.” Lies, by their nature, are sensational and can be much more viral than the boring truth. The New York Times’ role is to filter the truth and produce news that can also travel fast.

He believes that enough people will pay for the metered service to make it a good business. For the upcoming metered news, Sulzberger said that users will be able to search into the paid section of the New York Times, at least for a limited number of stories per month. If they want to exceed that as-yet-unspecified number, users will have to pay. It’ll be interesting to see if people continue to tweet a New York Times stories every 4 seconds after the pay wall goes up. Check out the video of Sulzberger and Burda below.

The DLD conference has more than 60 sessions and 172 speakers from a variety of disciplines, including technology. Disclosure: DLD paid my way to get to Munich as a panel moderator. VentureBeat maintains that our coverage of the conference is objective and independent.


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