Here’s some crappy news for cheapskates like myself. Apparently emboldened by the nearly half a million people who signed up to pay for online access to the New York Times, the venerable media company is cutting the number of free articles non-subscribers get from 20 per month to just 10. It’s hoping to drive more folks into paying for digital access, as its revenue from traditional print advertising continues to decline.
“Last year was a transformative one for The Times as we began to charge for digital access to our content,” said chairman and chief executive Arthur Sulzberger Jr. “Today, close to a half million people are now paying for digital content from The Times and the IHT. We knew that readers placed a high value on our journalism, and we anticipated they would respond positively to our digital subscription packages. Our commitment to all of our subscribers, both print and digital, is that we will continue to invest in and evolve our journalism and our products, and we will remain a source of trustworthy news, information and high-quality opinion for many years to come.”
In its most recent quarter, The NY Times saw overall revenue drop 2.8 percent for the quarter, and profit fall a sharp 26 percent. That’s because the 11.1 percent increase in digital ad sales couldn’t make up for the 7.1 percent decline in print advertising. With that trend likely to continue, the NY Times needs to shore up its business with a new revenue stream, digital subscriptions, which it also leverages to increase its overall print circulation.
The Grey Lady is also being smart by building out stand alone mobile programs like the Election 2012 app, which help it to corner big ad buys and drive new subscribers. But if they really want me to pony up, they will have to end the practice of allowing readers in who arrive from links on Twitter and Facebook, since that is how I discover practically all of my news.