A year after announcing plans to turn on the meters, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. is still trying to convince people the New York Times isn’t going to disappear from the free internet. He took the show to Munich Sunday, promising that “it won’t be a hard and fast wall” and admitting “to cut yourself of from Google (NSDQ: GOOG) access is crazy.” Sulzberger said the metered plan will kick in later this quarter; he didn’t say when but I expect them to squeak in under the wire.
Then again, he also declared that search is giving way to social, sparking an interchange with Google’s Nikesh Arora. “I’m prepared for my prediction to be wrong.” “So am I,” came the quick retort.
Why does Sulzberger think charging for online content has more potential now than for TimesSelect? In an app world, “people are showing a willingness to pay for something they feel is important. Sometimes that is a game, sometimes restaurant reviews, sometimes that is journalism. We believe enough people will pay.”
Asked how soon it would be before the top newspapers decide print is no longer viable, Sulzberger laughed ruefully. “I’ve learned not to give that kind of prediction somewhat painfully and I’m not going to do it now.” But he isn’t letting go of print. One reason he offers: the growth in the number of subscribers who have taken the print edition for two or more years — now at 800,000 from 650,000. “I think print is going to be around lot longer than most people do but the point is where people want us, we must be there and that’s our commitment — to be there on devices and paper for as long as people want.”
Seated next to Sulzberger on stage for the “Publisher’s Talk,” Hubert Burda, chairman of Burda Media, painted a picture of a different company, one where new media will make up 35 percent of revenues by the end of the year — outstripping revenue from traditional German sources. The biggest contributor? Commerce, not advertising. His advice? Take all the profits and invest in your business. More in the video below: