Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, January 07, 2021

In advance of an upcoming BusinessWeek cover story on the company, news comes out about the New York Times contemplating a pay-for website to replace its current free-with-registration-access model.

Rex Hammock points out that the Times has been tossing around this move for a decade, and so until/unless it happens, it ain’t news, just a perpetual rehash. I agree to a point; but I’m sure it is news to a lot of people, and part of the purpose of a story like this is to float it to a wide audience and gauge general reaction. If it sparks a wider discussion, I’ve got no problem with it.

In my mind, it’s important to distinguish how the Times’ website currently operates: It’s not really “free”, because of two things: Registration and advertising.

You don’t have to pay money to read it, so in that sense there’s no cost. But you do have to register in order to get into most of it; that involves a cost, in terms of divulging some personal information (admittedly, not much). And despite the likelihood of lots of registrations with false info or BugMeNot proxies, enough people give up enough real information to create a database for the Times that’s of significant value for marketing and other purposes. So in that sense, the paper is getting something of value in exchange for access.

Advertising on NYTimes.com is the other obvious currency alternative. Whether or not you pay attention to the online ads (or think you’re not paying attention), they’re served up, and they get exposure. So getting an eyeful of banner and skyscraper ads while focusing on articles is part of the package.

Obviously, these two measures aren’t the same as cold hard cash. And if the Times’ head honchos are still keeping a pay-for option on the table, it points to a shortcoming for the current model.

I’ve got some firsthand experience with this dilemma, as my publication’s website (which I’m currently tending) operates on the same principle. It’s an approach that’s perpetually up for debate, as it is for every media company.

The Wall Street Journal model is always presented as the one that cuts against the Internet grain, and with bottom-line success. What the Journal trades for wider exposure, it gets back in dollars and a user base that’s less subject to questions of authenticity. What I find most remarkable is that they’ve had no problems with keeping their pay-for content on a pretty tight leash: I can’t think of any instances where people would copy-and-paste Journal articles onto forums, blogs, etc. and cause a big stink. They’ve truly lucked out.

The pay-or-free debate is as old as the mainstream Web itself. The arguments have been hashed and rehashed for years. That there’s still debate in 2005 over it points to continuing uncertainty over it.

The one thing the Times has going for it is the value and equity in its brand. As much as the “information is free” nonsense is repeated, there’s a qualitative difference between hearing about news in the street or reading about it on a random blog, and getting it confirmed via the New York Times (or any other serious publication). The source matters. And the depth added to a story, in the form of follow-ups and background, gives readers additional reasons for homing in on the Times as an information source. (This is what works for the Wall Street Journal, with the additional qualification that it caters to a highly-focused audience with highly-focused information, difficult to find elsewhere.)

Given this, it’s certainly a feasible move for the Times to close off its online gates and charge admission. Any loss of online spread is neglible compared to the financial gain. Whether or not we actually see this development come to pass is questionable.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/07/2021 06:27pm
Category: Internet, Publishing
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Try not to shed on my site too much…

My mention of Medical Hair Restoration’s “The Hair Dudes” ad campaign has garnered some linky-love from the company. Right now, that post is linked on the MHR main site as a media mention, listed right between writeups items by Adweek and Brandweek. Much appreciated.

Let’s see how much traffic flows my way from this.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/07/2021 05:41pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin'
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Dammit! I knew the end was nigh for South Tampa institution Malio’s, but I had no idea tonight was the night.

I’ll have to kiss it off from afar. I’m heading for First Friday in downtown St. Pete tonight, so no time to hump over to Tampa.

Malio’s expects to reopen a smaller restaurant. But the owners of the restaurant and nightclub said they don’t know where or when.

“Malio’s isn’t going away,” said Derek Iavarone, son of Malio Iavarone, who founded the restaurant with wife Shirley. “This is just temporary. We’ll be back. Definitely.”

Feh. It won’t be the same. Open in another spot? Can they transport the heavy vibes of Burt Reynolds, Roger Clemens and Santo Trafficante in another spot? I think not. It’s the end of an era, dead as a doornail (appropriately enough, considering the door factory that’s going up in the old site).

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/07/2021 05:28pm
Category: Florida Livin'
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