NPR Shows Why Newspapers Should Charge Online

NPR on why it’s canceling $100,000-a-year worth of newspaper subscriptions:

NPR is strongly committed to the highest quality of journalism everywhere, and are pleased that most publishers offer free online access to their content for us at NPR – as well as all readers.

Newspapers make fools of all their paying subscribers by giving their product away free on the Web. Why pay $770 a year* for The New York Times when the same thing is free online? I sure could use that extra $64 a month*, and it’s mighty tempting to kill my subscription—I don’t like the actual print product that much. If that happens, the NYT loses 90 percent of my value to it in the form of lost revenue.

I don’t know if it’s too late for papers like the San Francisco Chronicle or The Baltimore Sun, which are shadows of their old selves, to charge. Maybe so. But it’s certainly not too late for, say, The New York Times, whose stock trades for less than the cost of a Sunday paper.

Look, we don’t know if the paid model will work (don’t give me the TimesSelect canard—that was opinion stuff). We do know the free model doesn’t work.

Really, what do newspapers have to lose? At this rate there aren’t going to be any left by next year but the The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Oh yeah: Both of them charge.

(h/t Romenesko)

* updated with full cost of Times subscription for a long-term subscriber.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.