Boston Globe/Boston.com To Charge Online Readers

According to a report in the Boston Herald this morning, you will soon have to pay in order to read The Boston Globe and Boston.com online.

There have been a lot of rumblings recently that more and more newspapers and news outlets are going to attempt to raise their falling fortunes by limiting access to their online work and charging readers a fee to access and read it. An Associated Press (another news agency looking to get more protective of their content) article this morning reports that News Corp.’s newspapers will also soon be charging for content. 

While I can see that their logic in not wishing to keep giving away their content and work for free, I have my doubts as to whether this is going to be successful.  The AP article above has Rupert Murdoch pointing to the Wall Street Journal and WSJ.com as a successful model for paid content that the rest of News Corp. will be trying to emulate.

I’d say there’s a bit of a difference between the content of the WSJ and The New York Post, another News Corp. outlet. You need to have content that’s worth paying for. If you don’t buy the paper are you going to pay for the privilege of reading Dan Shaughnessy’s latest?

What I will be interested in seeing, should this come to pass, is whether all of Boston.com will be a pay site, or if you’re only going to be charged to read items that appear in the paper edition of the Globe. Will we have to pay to read Reiss’s Pieces? Chad Finn? Are you going to pay to read Boston Dirt Dogs?

Obviously, this will all have an impact on what I’m doing here at BSMW. Should I bother to put together links to all the newspaper stories if only say, 10% of the readers here can actually get to them? Do I need to start recapping articles in more detail, rather than posting the links? That might cause issues, if I pass along for free information that a reporter has gathered and his website is charging a fee for access to. Will the traditional morning links just become obsolete?

 Non-Newspaper related sites like WEEI.com, NESN.com and Comcast SportsNet could see their online content gain more traffic, assuming they remain free of charge to access. Team sites, like RedSox.com, Patriots.com and Celtics.com, which are already producing their own coverage and content, would also seemingly benefit should the local newspapers decide to start charging for content. Free, independent sites like CelticsBlog.com, PatriotsDaily.com and messageboards like the Sons Of Sam Horn  and PatsFans.com would also likely benefit from increased traffic as fans go to get their fix of information and sports talk.

Is what The Boston Globe is producing, specifically on the sports side, since that’s what we’re dealing with here, so exclusive and valuable that readers are going to pay, in this economy, to be able to read it, when they can get most of the same information for free from the above sources? I might consider paying something just for Reiss’s Pieces updates, but not a whole lot.

Much will depend on the price. If it were say, $19.99 for a year, people might go for that. Make that $19.99 a month, or a week, I don’t think so. Will they continue to fill the space with ads in addition to the subscription charge? Will they lower the cost of the print edition?

To me, there’s also a difference between news and sports. Most people saw the game last night, and know what happened. Most people did not see the latest business deal or homicide, or see MBTA GM Daniel A. Grabauskas resigning. Would they consider charging for news coverage, but not sports? Can they be that creative?

An article on News Futurist – Newspapers: 180 years of not charging for content makes the case that newspapers haven’t actually charged for content since the 1830′s and it’s not really practical to start doing it now.

Lately, I’ve been reading a great blog -  The Future of Journalism on Salon.com, written by King Kaufman, who has done a lot of sports writing, and Katharine Mieszkowski. They’ve written quite a bit on this topic, as well as the other issues facing newspapers and online journalism these days.

Update, Friday PM: – Here’s an AP story on the matter: Boston Globe ponders charges for online content

Two questions for you, the sports news consumer:

  1. Will you pay to read newspapers online, or will you look elsewhere for your sports news and updates?
  2. What should I do mornings at BSMW, if a subscription to the newspaper sites is needed to access the links?
  • J.R.

    I will not pay the proverbial $0.02 for the “honor” of reading the latest hack job or by-the-numbers dreck churned out by the likes of Mazz, Shank, et al. I hardy ever read them as it is now when it’s free online. Reiss’s agenda-free Pats blog is the only thing over there that is of any value and interest to me.

    There are plenty of free sites out there for me to get my sports news and information. Hate to break it to the folks on Morrissey Blvd, but your once great, must read sports section stopped being relevant to many of us a long, long time ago.

  • LJ Sandwich

    If Boston.com starts charging money for their stuff….bye bye, sayonara, they are dead to me. The only stuff they have that I view on a regular basis are Bill Brett Party Photos and frankly I could do without the nightmares I have waking up to the vision of another closeup of some old south shore drunk hamming it up with some old harlot with her knockers hanging out.

    I’m not really sure what Bruce should do. Links to Larry Johnson cartoons and pictures from Phantom Gourmet “Events/Scams” would be enough to keep me coming everyday.

  • Big Jeff

    1. No I won’t pay. And since I already pity those who pay for the print version of the Globe now, I will also pity those who choose to pay to read it for free.

    2. I don’t think your links should change a whole lot. If people want to read the Globe articles you link to, they will. If they don’t, they won’t. Few read every link you provide now and places like the Globe and Projo and other places that require registration often result in folks eventually not bothering if they don’t want to go through that process. Except of course for the fact that you’ll now have to pay to link to Globe articles since you’ll have to pay to read them. In which case I’d say save yourself the $$, even if it’s a nickel a decade.

  • mandb97

    There is not one iota of a chance that I will pay to read either the Globe, Newscorp papers, or Philadelphia papers if they plan on charging. There are too many alternatives as Bruce has mentioned. It would be another nail in the coffin for newspapers. Also, if you are an an online advertiser with the Globe and notice a significant decrease in traffic to the paper are you still going to spend money advertising? I would think not. So the slight gain in revenue from charging for content will be lost in advertising dollars.

    Bruce, I would completely ignore the Globe in the links. Part of what leads their readership to their paper are blog sites like this, the Big Lead, and Deadspin (on a national level) that talk about stories in the respective papers. You guys actually act as a free marketing tool for these papers. If you ignore their content then people will not read the respective paper and frankly will forget about them.

  • Guntfather of Sports Radio

    1) My office gets the Globe and Herald for free so I won’t pay. The only thing I worry about are the aggregator sites like benmaller.com and prosportsdaily.com. I read those daily for links throughout the country. Will they not be allowed to summarize articles?

    2)I’d just put a dollar sign next to a link. Let the user decide whether or not he wants to pay.

  • sarplum

    Basically I would not pay – certainly not when I am north. Frankly I am not sure what I would do in Florida. There is a
    chance that I would pay a SMALL nominal amount to read Reiss.

  • Fred West Lynn

    First, a general comment. Other Globe readers may have noticed, as I have, a sharp decline in the paper’s own news-gathering. The DC Bureau has close, but more trenchantly, look through the whole first section to see how few stories are bylined “Globe Staff.” The actual reporting, the heart of a newspaper, as opposed to he columnizing and opining, is more and more laid off to correspondents and the wire services. I do not believe that the Globe can charge people to read AP stories, so the question of precisely what their universe of content they could charge for appears to be in question. Certainly anyone with a Web connection could readily to go non-newspaper news sites — MSNBC.com, ABC.com, the BostonChannel.com and get similar content. (There is an ironic twist here in that most of the local broadcast news operations rely quite heavily on adding their own video or graphics to stories that lead the morning Globe or Herald. The station’s assignment editors might find their jobs more challenging.)

    And while the native content is being reduced, it is also becoming skimpier. A fairly big event like McCartney at Fenway received nearly the same amount of space as a photo of Bobby Farrelly and some kids on the same page. There is, undeniably and quantitatively, LESS TO READ is any edition of the Globe you pick up compared to a year and certainly five years ago. And newspapers, since the advent of television, are more about words than they are about pictures, because in print the pictures don’t move. Interestingly, at least in terms of Arts coverage, I understand that the Herald online articles are allowed much more depth. That is, a review might only get 300 words in the paper, but might go 500+ in the online read.

    OK, back to the main point. Regarding the Sports world, the best writing in their (Globe’s) sports section appears mostly online. For the Red Sox coverage, Kilgore and Benjamin are OK – fairly colorless writers (which is what they’re asked to be, I presume) and not-very-investigative reporters (ditto). The real issue is the columnists: Shaughnessy, Cafardo, Ryan primarily. Globe management and marketing loves to hold them up or at least trumpet them as “The Best Sports Section in…” well, wherever. I believe that day has passed, and if it was true, their headliners were not these three (well, I’ll give you Ryan.) Personally, I would welcome a system where you could vote with your pocketbook as to whether you care to read these guys. Unlike politics, where I believe it’;s the duty of an educated citizen to know the positions he might not agree with, I feel no loss whatsoever about not knowing what Shank and Nickles think about anything. And Masserotti makes three.

    1.) Will I pay to read newspapers online? If you are referring to the Globe and Herald, no. I’d guess that 30-40% of their print content would not be available online because it’s from wire or other bureau sources, so there’s less content every day. I can get news from several reputable news organizations online, and Yahoo sports does a fine job of telling me the facts.

    2.) If a subscription is required to access a link, do not include the link, but make sure visitors know why. BSMW should not be in the business of steering its visitors to subscription come-ons from anyone.

    A final thought. One aspect of free online that continues to boom is job market / job search. In this environment, there could still be a place for Cafardo’s Sunday matchmaking activities.

  • Alessandro

    If papers like the Globe start charging, just go to your local public library and read their stuff for free … Most libraries have subscriptions to online databases (like ProQuest.Com and LexisNexis.Com) which provide access to hundreds of current print newspapers – as well as access to their archives (some back as far as the early 1900s), all for free.

    Well, free except for the gas money needed in to drive to said library, of course …

  • Nopointe

    The Globe is still around?

  • Bruce, NV

    I’d pay for Reiss. Nothing else. Liked Guntfather’s idea: $ next to a subscription link.

  • Jim C

    The only site I currently pay to read online is ESPN. I agree with the person who mentioned that the print version of the Globe continues to shrink (while the price continues to rise) and that what is published is no longer up to the standards it used to be. While I still read the Globe, it is no longer something I feel compelled to do. Nor will I pay for the “privledge” of installing “Globe Reader”, a way to read the Globe on line in the same layout as the print version. Um, why would I want to do that?

    So in answer to question 1, no, not gonna pay.

    As for question 2, it matters little to me. I visit a few sites that have a mix of free and pay content and I’m quite adept at avoiding the parts that want money. I would do what someone else suggested and somehow flag or highlight those links that bring someone to a subscription site so they’ll know.

  • kevin

    Would I pay if it was justthe globe no. Would I pay if majority of newsites started to charge probably. Sports would not be the deciding factor I get more out of watching than reading sports and I can get that info elsewhere.

  • http://www.jonvssports.blogspot.com Jon

    This sucks on toast. But I’m amused by the endless parade of Lakers trolls on the Celtics blog having to pay admission to post their drivel. Thanks for the free change, suckers!

  • Lance

    I might pay to read Reiss/Gasper, nothing else. I have a hunch I could find Reiss’s blog somewhere (free) elsewhere in the internet. I’d miss their often excellent reviewers (in the Arts) but it might be worth it just to be able to ignore CHB and his lovely band of soft-tossing muckrakers.

  • Dick

    Now that Mustard and Johnson are going to be back on weekends, there is no reason to read newspapers. I’m just going to wait for their show and get all of my sports information from those two experts.

    What is ‘EEI thinking?

    Seriously, the best thing about the internet is that except for the service charge, everything else is free. There are a bunch of different places to get sports information. No way would I pay for the Globe or Herald.

  • Zippo

    How to accelerate the failure of your business during a bad economy …

    1) start charging $4 for the Sunday paper

    2) start charging for online news that is readily available elsewhere

    • mandb97

      Well said.

  • NS Webster

    We already pay for all this content by paying a monthly Internet subscription fee. You pay for ESPN, for instance, maybe just pennies, maybe you don’t notice it, but you pay for it.

    In 3-5 years, most new outlets that survive will charge for access. It’s a guarantee. All of us who say “we’ll just read the free ones” won’t have any alternatives, because they’ll all cost something.

    Obviously, blogs, etc. will remain free, and this will be the best chance for blogs/private sites to break through the tradmed once and for all. Right now, blogs compete with tradmed, but once they are the free model then they are on a playing field all their own.

    But…let’s not kid ourselves by saying “it’s available for free elsewhere.” It won’t be if everybody starts charging – and everybody will start charging.

  • cakes_are_cooking

    The Globe charging for its content? This is like the German High Command making demands of the Red Army and Allies as they streamed across the German border.

  • Natick Nate

    CHARGING FOR CONTENT IS SOCIALIST!!!

    in all seriousness, no i will never pay for sub-par writing. You should NOT link to sup-par writing that needs a subscription. In fact your synopsis of whatever the topic is generally exceeds any other opinion piece in the Boston area.

    • Media Mogul

      Everyone says they won’t pay for online, but you will unless you’re buying the local paper. Remember when Itunes came out? Lots of people said they’d never pay 99 cents for a song. How is Itunes doing now?
      The whining in the column is kind of sad as well. While I think BSM provides a great service, don’t complain about companies taking away what they never should have be giving away in the first place.
      I think at some point newspapers will go to a pay-per-story subscription rate – a buck per story – but you can read the entire paper for a better price.
      Good to see a paper finally removing head from bottom and stopping people from stealing from them.

      • Bruce

        Whining? All I did was ask questions, and wonder if they can be successful in charging for content, or if people will go elsewhere. My questions about what I should do here if it happens were sincere, “Media Mogul,” not whining.

  • Media Mogul

    And for what BSMW should do, here’s an idea – what the site used to do a couple years ago. Post relevant stories, columns, etc., and start commenting on the media. When Shank writes a bomb, write a column on it and – here’s the tough part – you can type what it says in the paper without CTRL+C and CTRL+V.

    • Fred West Lynn

      Write like Shank? But that’s one of my specialties — and I post it here for free!

  • AbingtonCyr

    To be honest, part of me hopes to see most of these news sites start charging. I need to be saved from myself over the addiction to news on the internet. I must visit boston.com and others like it 15 times a day just to see if there is anything new. It’s compulsory. Google News Searches will replace just visiting a given news site instead. Sportswriting as a compelling read is a dead art form that has been replaced by lists and ramblings. There are plenty of blogs to get those from.

  • Brad

    I would pay a modest fee per month to read the Globe on line. I would pay a modest fee per month to read this web site on line. Modest = $4-$5 per month. As far as your mornings, I would pay for opinions and commentary on prior nights or upcoming games more readily than paying for links to pther stories or web sites.

  • Mitch

    The Wall Street Journal is an elite, one-of-a-kind publication that financial professionals cannot do without. That’s why they can successfully charge for content.

    The Globe is just another, run-of-the-mill rag…there’s nothing uniquely special to be found in their news, sports or opinion.

    There is a multitude of online alternatives to what the Globe has to offer, and they’re almost all freely accessible.

    This is just a recipe for continued failure…merely the latest in a long line of imprudent business decisions by the Globe.

    • RickB

      I agree. The WSJ provides valuable insight into the business world.
      The Globe has declined in it’s writing quality and content markedly.
      I agree with Zippo.
      I canceled my life long daily delivery subscription to the Globe when the price was raised.
      I’d pay for the Globe on line if it provided meaningful content beyond sports, with great writers, (Gammons, Montville, come back!)
      rb

  • Chris

    The first thing is to make sure enough people value your content enough to pay for it before going ahead with the paid-for model. The political sway that the Globe takes pleases some and angers others. Obviously the Globe has to fill their offering with original content; no one is going to pay for AP stuff that they can get elsewhere for free. So what’s that leave in the new paid-for offering? All the liberal columnists and editors, and the sports guys–which are split roughly 80% hated and 20% loved. In the end, I applaud the Globe for moving this way. The loud-mouthed columnists will be shouting to a smaller audience of people who think like they do anyway. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to make anyone happy…except the people who despise The Globe in the first place. The old ‘Tree that falls in a forest’ metaphor.

  • QuintanaFan

    A few of the knee-jerk folks will be up in arms about this, but, really, the Globe (and the Herald) have no choice. They have to do SOMETHING because the business is losing money at a rapid rate. They’re giving the product away for free, so their options are limited.

    I think they need to look at pricing. Will they go the iTunes model and have like .25 per article or something like that? Will they go to a flat subscription rate ($10/month, $100/year?)? I think a lot of that will be important.

    I also think the website is a key factor in this. So much of this stuff is important and the emphasis on breaking news and timely events make me think they have to charge for that, too. I mean, 20 years ago if you weren’t at the Red Sox game or watched it on TV, you wouldn’t know what happened until the paper the next day. Now, thanks to ESPN and the internet, the gamer is an afterthought.

    I don’t think many people will pay to read a pedestrian gamer, but they might pay to read takes on the Patriots by Mike Reiss, etc. The Globe might have to include that content to justify people paying for it. Because folks can get a gamer from the Herald, ESPN or anywhere else via AP. Why pay for it? But the columnists and the unique voices are the carrot they need to dangle.

    As for the site, I think you’d need to keep doing business as usual and just include a “subscription required” line next to it. It’s not like the Brockton Enterprise or Worcester Telegram and you can just pass on their work. The Globe is a big gorilla to leave out of the updates.

  • Terry C

    I don`t see me paying for someones opinion, to say that it is inevitable could be true but the content has to be an improvement over what we currently have, to just say O.K. now it costs money without offering more seems like a bad idea.
    My Dad resisted Cable T.V. (“why would I pay for something I already get for free”) until they took the sox and celtics.

  • Angry Old Bastard

    put me down for a NO…other than Mike Reiss, I really don’t think I’ll be missing much. If some situation should arise that I really, really, really want to read it, I’ll just buy the paper…..no biggie to me,wouldn’t miss it at all…..and by the way, didn’t the Herald use to charge for certain columns?

  • Patrick

    The Boston Herald tried this several year’s ago, they charged something like $9.00 per 3-moths to read their columnist only, the rest of the site was free. If you paid they gave you a free T-Shirt, it didn’t last very long and soon enough they dropped all fees and went back to a free site.

  • Classless

    Brilliant business decision: Charge money for a dying industry in a world where news is free in infinite amounts. Yeah, goodnight Boston Globe.

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