While all eyes are on the launch of News Corp.’s iPad newspaper, The Daily, today, tomorrow’s thoughts are focused on the NYT, which may finally announce the details of its metered paywall. But as Techcrunch reported, the NYT is also interested in The Daily, and has been working on a separate “iPad newspaper” that is heavily reliant on aggregated content. That alone puts it in contrast to The Daily, which has a staff of 100 producing roughly 100 pages of content a day.
Clarification: A NYTCo (NYSE: NYT) rep added some points about how involved the company was in the creation of News.me. Essentially, it’s a Betaworks product, not a NYT one: “The Times Company’s R&D group developed the prototype and we sold it in exchange for equity in bit.ly. As part of the deal, a team of developers from R&D worked at bit.ly to help bring the product to market.”
Techcrunch’s Erick Schonfeld was given a sneak peak at News.me, which is a collaborative social news project between the NYT and Betaworks. The idea is expands on the general formula of news aggregation sites like Techmeme and Mediagazer, by using algorithms to pull the news from the Twitter feeds of people you follow and resembles the social news tablet app Flipboard.
News.me is also similar to the NYT-backed news aggregator Ongo, in the sense that it will be subscription-based. It’s not clear what News.me will charge, but Ongo, which debuted last week, charges $6.99 a month for access to news from the NYT (only the top 20 articles right now), along with Gannett (NYSE: GCI) and the Washington Post. Other titles can be added for an extra dollar each. At least right now, Ongo has no ads, in contrast to The Daily.
So with the paywalls coming down, will users be inspired to pay?
In an e-mail message from Ongo CEO Alex Kazim, he said, “The Daily is betting on the belief, that we tend to agree with, that people will pay for great content tied to a great user experience. We do find it interesting that they are altering the user experience with ads while also charging a subscription. The Daily is for a news consumer who seeks a very broad, visually appealing single-sourced news experience. *Time* will tell if The Daily offers enough news depth to maintain subscribers.”
Murdoch and other media executives betting on tablet subscriptions would say these are “still early days” and that the sales figures of recent magazine apps aren’t comparable. But they do show that some people — not a lot — are willing to pay at least $4.99 for a digital magazine, ones that don’t yet come with automatic subscriptions. It’s certainly worth wondering if the NYT will have too many subscription options, with Ongo offering one set and the News.Me offering another on top of the NYTimes.com paywall, which is expected to be around $20 a month. As Ongo’s Kazim said, time will tell.