They say desperate times call for desperate measures. Whether it’s a need for more revenue, better access or more space, this week in web publishing brings you several innovative solutions.
Another New York Times Pay Wall
If you’re a New York Times reader, use the next seven months to read all the free news you can. Come January, the newspaper has announced that it will begin charging for access to articles on its website. At he beginning of this year the paper hinted that it would be making readers pay, but gave little specifics.
Recently, they announced that their pay wall will affect only “some frequent readers for access” citing that starting in January 2011, a visitor to NYTimes.com will be allowed to view a certain number of articles free each month. If the reader wants more, they must pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the print newspaper, even those who subscribe only to the Sunday paper, will receive full access to the site without any additional charge.
Though it has yet to be determined how much readers would pay for unlimited access, the paper aims to cash in on their loyalty. And the Times has solicited responses from its readers already, and noted that those who support the move outnumbered those who “vowed not to pay.”
What remains to be seen, of course, is how loyal its readers really are, as well as how this may affect its status in the social world. With so much of the news being circulated via social media sharing links, if some find themselves without access and unable or unwilling to pay, the Times may find that their influence may wane as a result.
Magazine Subscriptions Via Facebook
Speaking of the social web, Synapse, a Time Inc. division that sells subscriptions for many publishers, has collaborated with Alvenda, a company that builds e-commerce applications, to introduce a system that lets Facebook users buy print magazine subscriptions without leaving the site or even the Facebook news feed.
The system, slated for release this summer, will also allow Facebook users to expand blurbs of magazine content (that frequently show in the news feed) into full articles, complete with advertising without leaving the news feed, much less Facebook itself.
It would behoove the New York Times to learn from Synapse’s anticipated example, which will let users share a magazine article link with Facebook friends, and allow them to expand the item into a full article with ads and an option to subscribe.
Separating the Free from the Paid
Speaking of free, Amazon has decided to split its Kindle bestseller list, creating one list for paid books and another for free titles. Although it’s unclear when the lists will be officially created and released, the move can be seen as a bust to publishers, who have long since relied on a free model to get attention for certain authors. Traditionally, the top ten bestselling titles on Amazon’s Kindle bestseller list are free downloads, and list has been used by publishers to gauge consumer behavior towards e-books, as well by consumers to point them to titles.
Now that we’ll be able to see the top-sellers separated out by paid and free downloads, will we gain a bigger and better perspective on the world of e-books? It’s possible, but it's a distinction that may distract rather than focus the publishing industry at a crucial moment. If it doesn’t impact the industry for good or bad, shall we liken it to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?
Introducing the Bookless Library
From the Sign of the Times Department, we bring you the following news: Stanford University has announced that it is moving towards the creation of its first "bookless library."
The university’s physics and engineering libraries are merging to become a smaller but more efficient and largely electronic library that can accommodate the “vast, expanding and interrelated literature of physics, computer science and engineering”. As well the merger aims to switch focus from “checking out books” to mere search and discovery of books and information.
The shared library space is not only changing the way books are accessed, but how people interact in the space as well. It features soft seating, "brainstorm islands," a digital bulletin board, a group event space and a new self-checkout system. In addition, the library is developing a completely electronic reference desk with four Kindle 2 e-readers on site.