So when I look around town and see newspapers being handed out for free, it makes me worry. The newspaper industry, of which I would like to be a part of, is declining. We all know the story. People have grown so accustomed to being in front of a computer screen that their consumption of the news has shifted from the old-fashioned dirty your fingers newspapers to the clean and convenient world-wide web. People have grown so lazy that they shudder at the idea of even going downstairs to grab the paper when they have an Internet connection. Or god forbid, going to your local newsstand to pick up a copy.
So what to do? In what is a groundbreaking announcement for online news, the New York Times revealed that they will start charging users for access to their online content starting January, 2011. This is obviously a solution that has been floated around for years and it seems like NYT will be the guinea pig. The trouble is the competition. If users have the option of paying to view the NYT website versus visiting a myriad of other news sites free of charge, many will opt for the latter. NYT better make sure that their site is worth the money. And it just may be.
The NYT website is one of the most technologically advanced news sites around. We all know what to expect when we visit these sites. Print articles. Polls. Photo albums. Maybe a timeline or a photo-essay. But it seems like NYT is the front-runner when it comes to creating exceptionally beautiful and groundbreaking ways to consume news. I want to share a few with you. And since the Olympics are fresh in our minds, let’s run with that.
- Olympic medals are decided not by a matter of seconds but often by a few milliseconds. Ever wanted to hear an audio depiction of just what separates a medal run from obscurity. NYT offers an interactive graphic doing just that for every event from Vancouver.
- Ever wonder how figure skating is judged? Check out this interactive graphic to find out what these judges are looking for in a perfect performance.
- And finally, we’ve all heard the tragic story of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger who died moments before the opening ceremonies. This interactive graphic brings the user along on a step-by-step replay of exactly how it happened.
Maybe the NYT is upping their game leading up to when they start charging users. By the way, charges will only apply to users who visit the site frequently. Occasional users will not be charged. Details about how much they will charge and what constitutes a frequent user remain up in the air. But my thinking is that if they continue to produce these unique and visually stunning ways to consume news, some people may not mind dropping a few bucks for it.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the Times Company chairman and publisher of the newspaper.
This announcement allows us to begin the thought process that’s going to answer so many of the questions that we all care about. We can’t get this halfway right or three-quarters of the way right. We have to get this really, really right.