NYT’s Keller: We’re Looking For Ways To Charge For Online Content Again

In a Q&A with readers concerned about the precarious financial state of the newspaper this week, NYT Editor Bill Keller was asked if the paper would consider charging for online content again. Keller says that the company isn’t making any new plans. But, as he said in the exchange, “a lively, deadly serious discussion continues within The Times about ways to get consumers to pay for what we make.” Keller also defended TimesSelect, the online offering that put the paper’s columnists and archives behind a pay wall. The service was abandoned after two years in September 2007 and it looks like the concept associated with TimesSelect will not be returning. Instead, the discussions revolve around four of the most popular themes: subscription model, micropayments, revenue sharing via devices like Amazon’s Kindle and the non-profit route.

Information wants to get paid: Keller rejected the concept that says “information wants to be free.” The exception is “really good information,” such as the kind of comprehensive coverage offered by the NYT. “TimesSelect generated something like $10 million a year, which was real money, but in the end the company calculated that we’d be better off taking down the wall and letting the flood of additional visitors to the Web site attract advertising dollars. The lesson of that experiment, however, was not that readers won’t pay for content. A lot of people in the news business, myself included, don’t buy as a matter of theology that information “wants to be free.” Really good information, often extracted from reluctant sources, truth-tested, organized and explained