One of my favourite quotes this past year came from Arthur Sulzberger (Owner, Chairman and Publisher, The New York Times). In one of the most provocative moments in the publishing industry's history, he said: "I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either,â€? at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland this past February. Granted, he has since back-peddled on this statement, but at its core we all understand his reasoning. It's not that Arthur does not believe in the power of paper, he is simply following the money. And, if the money comes from the online channel, the mobile channel or whatever channel the Consumer demands, Arthur wants to be there... and get his fair share of the advertising cut in the process.
That's why it should come as no surprise that The New York Times announced today that it would be offering up all of its content for free starting tomorrow. Gone is the paid subscription model, according this short news item from BtoB Magazine entitled, NYTimes.com Scraps TimesSelect, Opens Up Content For Free. I especially liked this quote from the news piece:
"'With the removal of the pay wall, the audience potential at NYTimes.com, already the No. 1 newspaper Web site in the United States, is vast,' said Denise Warren, senior VP-chief advertising officer of The New York Times Media Group, in a news release."
And this one:
"Advertisers on the site can expect to see an unprecedented number of Times readers interacting with their brands.â€?
Arthur is following the money.
While many in Digital Marketing question the power (and longevity) of online display ads (the cool new saying for "banners"), NYTimes.com generates tons of traffic, and this move will open up the inventory and enable them to stockpile some ad cash in the short haul. Sulzberger and his team may not be looking at the next four years to stop the presses, but there is no doubt that they are testing the model of "content as media" in a very unique way.
Typically, when I discuss the idea of "content as media" it is more with an advertorial spin to it: engaging consumers by providing them with relevant and valuable content that your brand is powering. I'm thinking about what Whirpool has done with their The American Family Podcast. In this instance, the New York Times is realizing that people would love access to their content, and the real money might be in letting them at it (sponsored) versus making them pay for it.
I'm very curious to see what new Advertising and Marketing opportunities arise out of this shift in strategy.