"While it may seem bold to ask our readers to pay," Robinson said, the fact that the paper has a loyal and engaged audience means that if it can continue to deliver its promise of high quality journalism, many readers will oblige. "There is in our minds, a willingness to pay for that richness of experience," she told the Editors Weblog. "We are positive about how much traffic we think we will retain," she said. The "porous" nature of the metered model means that the site can retain its place in the global media conversation.
The metered model was chosen after extensive research, Robinson said, and she strongly advised other papers looking at paid online content to find out what their readers really want before taking any steps in that direction. The NYT's research convinced the paper that the metered model, which still allows the paper to be "part of the global dialogue" would be more effective than a complete paywall such as that recently implemented by the Times of London.
Times Select, the NYT's previous paid online content effort, was in fact a "very successful paywall," Robinson said, that brought in $10 million in one year and counted 780,000 subscribers. The Times chose to take it down because of the growing predominance of search, but not because of its failure.
She thinks that the behaviour of consumers has begun to change in recent years and that people are more open to paying for content. "I really think this is going to work," she said.
Robinson firmly stressed the extent of her efforts to protect journalism and that this was significant motivation behind the upcoming paywall. "There is nothing more important in my responsibilities than making sure that my newspapers have the resources that they need to continue producing high quality journalism," she said. The paper has vastly cut costs in recent years, but on the business side rather than editorial, leaving the newsroom "very, very protected," she said.
The New York Times has a strong attitude of constant innovation and willingness to experiment, without being limited by fear of failure, Robinson said. "We must be in perpetual beta - we say that and we mean it. You have to be prepared to do things differently."
"If you don't start looking for new business models and new products and services you provide, you're not keeping your audience devoted to your brand." The more staff are allowed to act on their ideas, the more great products are produced, she said: people are comfortable with proposing ideas, both on the news and the business side. Those who work in the research and development lab have "really been asked to look around corners," she told the EW, and that group have really encouraged others to do more.
The NYT Co-owned Boston Globe is about to adopt a different paywall strategy to its sister paper the Times: its current portal Boston.com will remain free but a paid for website focusing solely on newspaper content will be launched. Robinson explained that this was because the company had detected two different types of readers on Boston.com, and it "made us realise that we have the opportunity to have two successful websites as opposed to one."
The Times will launch a complete iPad app in November, replacing the current Editor's Choice app, which offers just a selection of content and which has had 600,000 downloads. Once the paywall goes up in January 2011, the app will become paid. There will also be a separate International Herald Tribune application, one for the Boston Globe, and "we plan to make many more apps," Robinson said. The paper is currently establishing different potential bundles of content that readers could subscribe to, with print, web, mobile, iPad and Kindle involved.
The bundling and full details with regards to the meter and pricing should be released in December, Robinson specified.
Robinson spoke briefly about OnGo, the curated aggregation site recently created in conjunction with the Washington Post and Gannett. It will be a paid site that offers a "high quality news experience" with content from the NYT, WP and Gannett, as well as from affiliates. "We chose to join with the Washington Post and Gannett because they also represent high quality journalism in the US," she noted." More details will be made public in November, she expects.