Folks at The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) continue to think deep thoughts about making money online without disrupting the traffic needed for advertising. The latest public mention comes from digital head Martin Nisenholtz at a conference Tuesday, where he said “mobile offers a better opportunity for paid content,” according to Bloomberg. He added that it’s not going to be “tenable” for “publishers to offer their content for free in the mobile platform forever.” (The actual quote from Bloomberg tacks on “without getting paid very much money” but it can’t be free and paid at the same time.)
Nisenholtz told the wire service the company hasn’t decided yet whether to or how much to pay for mobile access; he also said it’s being considered because mobile devices allow for less advertising than the web.
I would suggest it’s being considered because just about everything that might make more money for the company from the news it already produces is on the table — and should be. Mobile may offer the most opportunity now because people are being conditioned to paying for certain things that are readily available online. The NYT and the Boston Globe already charge for subscriptions to the content in print editions via Amazon’s Kindle; they’ve also added other monthly subscriptions like the NYT‘s Latest News feed ($1.99), Paul Krugman’s blog ($0.99), and The Opinionator blog ($0.99).
On the other hand, in their haste to be cool, the Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and others went free on the iPhone and we all know how easy it is to change those expectations. The TimesReader, meant mostly for laptops, may be the indicator for how to handle this: some is available to anyone, but only paying subs (including those for the print edition) get access to everything including the crossword.