May 27, 2005

The WaPo on News, $$’s and the WWW [8:13 am]

News Groups Wrestle With Online Fees [pdf]

“For the cost of roughly two and a half martinis, you can have access to the entire archives,” [NYTimes Digital's Martin] Nisenholtz quipped. He took issue with bloggers who predicted the subscription plan will reduce the readership and influence of the paper’s columnists. “We expect quite a number of people will subscribe,” he said.

But since the New York Times has more online readers than print subscribers, it’s hard to believe the columnists won’t see a dramatic fall-off in readership even if its subscription plan catches on.

The painful transition facing the newspaper industry was on display here this week at the Wall Street Journal’s “D: All Things Digital” conference. In a panel discussion, top executives from three newspaper companies — Knight-Ridder Inc., The Washington Post Co. and Dow Jones & Co. — expressed optimism about what they called the “challenges” facing their industry. Since most large papers have gained more Web readers than they have lost in print, the panelists said the industry has a chance to reinvent itself.

“If we’re in trouble, shame on us,” said Donald Graham, chairman and chief executive of The Washington Post, noting that total readership of Post journalism has more than doubled in the past seven years if online readers and those reading the company’s free Express paper are counted.

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