Clark Hoyt, the public editor over at the New York Times web site published an article on Saturday, June 20 that I’m having a few problems with. Well, I guess using the word ‘article’ would be a bit of a stretch, since it’s just an unbalanced advertorial that is not clearly marked as an ad.
At the beginning of the article, Hoyt pulls no punches. He talks of how the newsstand price of the NYT went up significantly while the size of the paper and some of it’s coverage decreased. He quotes concerned readers showing their dismay at the publication’s pay-more-for-less changes, then goes on to reassure readers that this is a good thing, that quality will actually increase and that readers will get used to it.
Then comes the current financial situation facing all newspapers and how the last uncharged-for content is fully accessable online to anyone with a web enabled device. That’s where they will turn to next. Hey, if people are going online and reading the NYT for free, we want their money and we’ll put up a paywall to get it.
And, you’ll be getting prime online multimedia content because they’ve had to hire and train an army of videographers who’ll have tons of the latest news up, that you’ll only be able to see online, after paying.
But Hoyt does it with finesse. He can write, I’ll give him that.
Page 2 is where he drops the real bomb, though, with this:
Times executives are studying possible ways to charge readers for online content, an increasing focus in the industry as the world moves to the Web.
Which, if you noticed, drops the bomb first and cleans up after it in the second part of the same sentence by trying to justify the price increase. Everybody else is doing it so we are too.
He then spends the rest of the article using the classic sales copy tactic of having everyday readers just like you sell the new price increases with testimonials, conveniently filling in information between them to put the story in perspective.
NYT readers, they’re going to be charging you for online content, because everyone else is doing it, and you’re going to like it, because everyone else likes it.
The article is just too much. It’s thinly veiled advertising that should be marked as such. In fact, the only things that differentiate it from one of those direct marketing minisite letters is that it doesn’t have a huge red headline, or a big BUY NOW! button at the end… yet.