New York Times getting ready to charge readers? Fail.

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New York Times is supposedly getting ready to charge online readers:

What makes the decision so agonizing for Sulzberger is that it involves not just business considerations, but ultimately a self-assessment of just what Times journalism is worth to the world. This fall, Keller told the Observer that at some point, the decision is a “gut call about what we think the audience will accept.” Hanging over the deliberations is the fact that the Times’ last experience with pay walls, TimesSelect, was deeply unsatisfying and exposed a rift between Sulzberger and his roster of A-list columnists, particularly Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd, who grew frustrated at their dramatic fall-off in online readership. Not long before the Times ultimately pulled the plug on TimesSelect, Friedman wrote Sulzberger a long memo explaining that, while he was initially supportive of TimesSelect, he’d been alarmed that he had lost most of his readers in India and China and the Middle East. “As we got into it, it was clear to me I was getting cut off from a lot of my readers in India and China where 50 dollars per year would be equal to a quarter of college tuition,” Friedman recently told me by phone. “What was coming to me anecdotally from my travels was the five worst words that as a columnist you ever want to hear: ‘I used to read you before you went behind the wall.’

For one, this simple quote shows pretty clear that hiding behind a paywall is a bad idea. I was interviewed recently for a (internal) study regarding paid content and its chances of success, and my opinion is pretty clear. I said: If a publisher tried to charge readers for news content, the results will be depressing.

More importantly, though: It’s almost depressing to see that many publishers are so desperate that they just jump at the chance to charge readers now that Murdoch has put the option back on the table. It’s sad, it’s desperate, it’s bound to fail – and it’s just dumb. I really hope this will turn out to be a hoax.

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