The petulant self-appointed pope of south Florida bloggers has taken issue with my suggestion to free the Herald's digital archives which are currently in jail behind a pay wall. He claims the Herald makes more money with the pay per view model than with an ad supported model that's free to readers. In the comments section I responded, explaining how many of the most visited newspaper and magazine sites offer free archives going back at least a couple of years with most offering more than 15 years worth of free archives.
But here's another opinion. It comes, ironically enough, from an article in the New York Times' archive from September of last year when the Times announced that it was dropping it's paid archive model which was at the time generating $10 MILLION a year in revenue:
“But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site, NYTimes.com.The article also states that at the time of the decision, "the Times’s site [had] about 13 million unique visitors each month, according to Nielsen/NetRatings."
What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com. These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.
As of March of 2008, the Times site was drawing 18.8 million unique visitors (that link is, incidentally, to free archived article from Editor & Publisher). That's a 44% rise in web site traffic in a little more than half a year. And the Times already had the most visited newspaper web site in the country BEFORE it made many of its archived articles available for free viewing.
Do I think this is going to save the Herald? No, of course not. The failure to follow industry leaders in this area is but a symptom of what ails the Herald. It demonstrates a "head in the sand" mentality that must be prevalent at McClatchy headquarters and at 1 Herald Plaza while Rome is burning.
Because 'Pope Pompous I' continues to defend his asinine position (simply because its contrary to mine), I thought I'd point out that the top news web site of any kind in America is CNN.com. Of course, CNN's free archives go back to 1996. The point is that if you are going to have a web site, and you want it to be a "successful web site", that is to say one that is a viable business, then maybe you should model it after, you know, other web sites that are successful.