Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

As an employee of The New York Times Company, I probably should not raise this issue - but hey! - journalists are instinctive troublemakers.

What views on the decision by and to implement the Times Select paid subscriptions system for the highest profile columnists.

I fear we are giving room for new columnists to arise out of the Blogoshere to rival our own marquee names.

I have not thought enough about it, but I wonder if the opposite tactic might not be best. We give away the high profile columnists and charge for specific stories and local news that people cannot get elsewhere. The columnists increase our footprint and we cut out much of the blogosphere.

The problem, of course, is we need to find a way to pay for my salary and – very modest – expenses. Any thought on how to keep me in a job by earning money off our websites is much appreciated!


Let me try to comment the world of journalism in a nutshell, and along this process I thought of the movie "The Insider" with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe. The headline could be always be far removed from the actual task in making what news news, and I believe in blogging could be a world as institutionalized, and eventually be the right handman of another institution. Interestingly is a question, should we even go through with thinking one day that the blogosphere could become institutionalized? And why? Maybe is just the internet....(I smell money)

There are many talented blogger, especially reading some of the blogs on Katrina and the after mess of it all. Something a MSM journalist couldn't get that close to the aftermath and as quickly as some of the bloggers. Ain't it worth something?

Then looking at any journalistic blogging, should we mix pleasure with business, and will you get penalize for putting our voices out with an opinion. Especially under supervised. Should your opinion be paid?

News is money and it is just a medium, and certainly some web sites are breaking wave in paying bloggers money to write for them, from this article:,1284,68934,00.html?tw=rss.CUL

I think being a professional have its reason to say I am a professional, but I do believe that the MSM is looking in the right direction to change the rule of the game.

As a non-journalist I think the purpose of those in the profession is to provide unbiased truth (easier said than done) and information that may be useful to my everyday life that I do not have access to or because of my busy life, don't have time to investigate.

I don't want to be entertained by journalist - I want to be informed. In this the profession has let us down. That's why I spend more time on the internet trying to find useful information for myself.

I am tired of all the trivial news stories making headlines. For example: I know more about boa constrictors eating alligators in the Everglades than I know about the real affects of Nafta.

I would pay for a real news service to do the homework for me. Instead of reading Nafta is good, democrats are bad and vice versa from another source I would like the evidence outlined, easy to understand and verifiable through legitimate links and references that I could access.

I want to know why my congressman voted for something and it's ramifications (not opiinions - I'll make up my own mind). I don't want to wait until the next election campaign to hear it discussed. I want to be able to hold hem/her accountable now. I need information to do it.

I want relevant information to hold corporations, organizations and politicians accountable. I am tired of the dems vs. rep rhetoric. I'm tired of hearing about the Enrons after the damage has been done. I'm tired of being distracted by long term arguments over flag burning when there are other issues that affect me everyday swept aside for sensationalism.

There are clues waiting to be investigated. Where's the due dilligence?

It's too hard to figure what's so much better about these stories. Harvard business review, wall street journal. These have direct business impacts. What additional value is nytimes actually providing here?

To be honest, I think the NYT should charge. It is one of the few brands in the world that is really in a position to do that. (I don't think IHT is in the same position, for what it's worth.)

The reason I think it should do that is because any media organization that is overly dependent on ad revenue (direct or indirect) is setting itself up for a severe moral hazard. You have to have the revenue mix to have a credible newspaper. It's very difficult to do it any other way.

How to charge is another question. The issue is this: when you buy a newspaper, you are actually paying for the newspaper you read yesterday. It's odd, but you won't generally be prepared to pay for today's unless you were happy with yesterday's. If you aren't happy with today's news, the result will be that you won't buy tomorrow's newspaper. (Think about it.)

The whole system is 'primed' by the number of 'pre-owned' newspapers that are flying around. For example, I formed my positive opinion of The Economist magazine from reading slightly old copies in friends' houses or doctors' surgeries or whatever. As a result, I decided to buy it for myself. These freely available copies of newspapers and magazines are what drive sales growth.

I'm sure it's possible to stimulate the same sort of 'free availability' in the online world, but I'd have to think about how best to do it.

One weakness is that we don't yet (in my opinion) have a satisfactory mechanism for paying for articles and similar low-priced material on-line. I suppose paypal is the closest, but there's still a long long way to go. Maybe NYT could drive that? (Ultimately, I think the big web properties will all try to get into the web payments game - see

At last the NYT took the bold step, spawning, predictably, a controversy. For some time journalists and pundits have been contemplating when the big newspapers (including the NYT and the Post) will put an end to the 'free ride', that is, the full free access to the papers' content online. A story in the Post earlier last summer reported that each of the two major newspapers is reluctant to make the difficult decision of charging for their content lest that should alienate the customers, especially the new generation, who are familiar only with the online editions of those papers. Each of them was waiting for the other to tread into the uncharted waters first, and the NYT did it.

the fee-or-for-free dilemma facing newspapers today is another facet of the internet's impact on the traditional industries. And the problem is that many people can't get to grips with the new dynamics. The reasoning behind the new move from NYT is probably this: We are a hugely recognized brand; we have been offering our content online for free for almost a decade (meaning that at least a couple million people have their daily fix from our eye-friendly website); and since our most viewed, emailed, printed content is the op-ed column, then let's start to charge for these columns. Sounds logical? Probably, but it's, in my view, dead wrong a step. By charging for the content most sought after, the NYT is in effect alienating a whole new generation of customers now, and all of its potential customers in the future. This puts the paper at the risk of becoming irrelevant in the Web universe. (see this important story on the risk of irrelevant from locking content:,1284,66697,00.html).
Granted, the NYT is not an extreme case with its new move as the Wall Street Journal is, but still, this could potentially tarnish the paper's brand. For me, this rhymes with Microsoft saga. One of the threats now facing the software giant is that the source of its bread and butter (and lamb steaks!) is its actual products. The problem is with dawn of the internet era some of its competitors, like Google, have figured out to find a way to make money , while giving the products for free. This is so similar to the NYT dilemma, the Web as a medium as its own mechanism, and coping with them requires a substantial fortune of creativity.

I am a paid subscriber to The International Herald Tribune in Tokyo, yet I can NOT access Times Select. It is frustrating, especially when Maureen Dowd`s articles are NOT printed in the IHT.

When I contacted the NYT customer service department I was advised as a paid subscriber to the IHT I could access Times Select, as long as I was not from Japan (and a few other countries).

Hope they change this system soon.