The New York Times on the Web today lifted the subscription fee it was charging users outside the United States.
Beginning today, the Times, which is free to domestic users who register, will no longer charge the $35 per month fee internationally, the company said. The move is designed to attract more overseas users and the advertising dollars that accompany them.
With a few exceptions, online publishers have found charging subscription fees to be an uphill battle. Unless the content is expert and highly specialized, readers generally can find what they want for free elsewhere online. The few print publications that are successful charging fees for online content, such as the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition and Playboy, are making only a fraction of their overall revenue from Net subscriptions.
Analysts have predicted that sites with specialized, real-time financial data and fantasy sports leagues, for example, will be able to charge for access successfully. Others already have had trouble: Cowles New Media earlier this year tried unsuccessfully to charge users for news service Media Daily. Cowles has since been acquired by Intertec, a trade magazine publisher.
Mercury Center, the online edition of the San Jose Mercury News, lifted its subscription fee in May, in what executives said was a move to expand its audience reach. Slate, Microsoft's news and content magazine, began charging $19.95 per year in February. It had 20,000 subscribers as of April, according to a spokeswoman. In the same month, the Wall Street Journal announced it had reached the 200,000 subscriber mark for its site.
The New York Times collects demographic data from users who register such as age, gender, and the like. It then uses the information to help advertisers target banners to specific audiences, a Times spokesman said. Though it has offered the capability to overseas advertisers all along, the firm is hoping that lifting its subscription fee will widely expand its readership abroad, thereby drawing in more advertisers of all stripes.
The Times Web site has 4 million registered users in the United States, but only "thousands" overseas, the spokesman said.
"Internet usage overseas is growing at a faster pace than domestic usage and we are intent on building our franchise worldwide," Martin Nisenholtz, president of the New York Times Electronic Media Company, said in a statement. "We are convinced that our advertiser-supported, no-fee registration model, which has worked so well for us here, is the best path to accomplish this."
The announcement comes as the Times launches a redesigned home page, offering an upgraded search utility, financial news in real time, and easier navigation, the firm said.