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WaPo’s Narisetti: ‘Stay Tuned’ On Charging Decision

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Washington Post Managing Editor Raju Narisetti took questions from readers online Monday, politely answering all kinds of queries and complaints while shedding the tiniest bit of light on digital plans. The paper, which once upon a time was often ahead of digital bandwagons, is finally going to introduce an iPhone app this quarter after relying on its mobile site to carry all the weight.

Will it be a pay app? Narisetti didn’t address that specifically, but in response to another question said users should ‘”stay tuned” when it comes to a decision on whether or not to charge for online content. Later, he raised the issue of what readers will actually pay for online when a user suggested offering a premium “no ad” edition. As for the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) tablet, it doesn’t sound like is on board for the opening round. Some excerpts:

Arlington, VA: Will The Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) have a product available on the new Apple tablet?

Narisetti: Hopefully as soon as Apple lets us offer one. Difficult to predict since we too don’t know many of the details behind the tablet.

Washington, D.C.: With the news that the NYT is going to a paywall at the start of 2011, what is the likelihood that the Post will also? Or is there an expectation that Post traffic will increase as the Times’s decreases?

Narisetti: Like most media companies, we believe that our content has value to both readers and advertisers and do want to find ways to get paid for the costs we incur to generate such content–in print and online. Much like subscriptions and advertisements pay for a print paper, it would be good to have a model where both advertisers and readers pay online. But, while we continue to keep a close eye on such announcements as well as some emerging models, no decisions have been made about charging for washington post content online. But, stay tuned.

pay for online post: I subscribe to the paper edition and have for years, but I would pay a little more if I could get the online version with no ads. I go to the Web site several times during the day and it is really annoying sometimes with the invasive ads. I think people would pay a fee to get the same site, just without ads.

Narisetti: Thanks. If, for example, we were to print a paper without any ads, there is simply now (sic) way Washington Post would survive unless we charged way, way more per copy each day. In some ways the web is similar. Our standards for “invasive” ads is actually significantly higher than many news sites and I am constantly pushing back, with a fair amount of success, on what I see as really intrusive ads. I do wonder if readers will be willing to pay a substantial premium for a news site without any ads, given everything is free. We get so much pushback on prices for a paper that costs less than $5 a week even as we happily pay $5 for a Starbucks latte. But your larger point about invasive ads is something that the news side is very aware of.

And, in response to a reader who offered to pay for online news, but not opinion:

Narisetti: good to know. it is possible some people will only pay for the opinions side and not for the news side (which some could see as a commodity)…i suspect multiple pay models will emerge over the next year or two as we all grapple with this issue of how to fund our news generating costs.