Boston Globe ponders charges for online content



Finally a model that will probably work. Charging a nominal fee for accessing the valuable articles on major publications is only commonsense. If the media groups join together and set up a one fee for the publications that target the same audience, they can afford loss of advertising even if the readers drop in numbers. The clicks have value because advertising is based on a percentage of the clicks. A fee can replace the potential loss because clicks bring no money anyway. Per click advertising is one of the worst ways to earn money and has been established as such.


BOSTON — The Boston Globe is moving toward charging readers for online content, while its parent, The New York Times Co., explores a possible — but not certain — sale of the newspaper.

“Nothing is absolute, but we are heading toward some sort of consumer pay model,” for its Web site, Globe spokesman Bob Powers said Friday.

Powers said the newspaper had assembled a team to explore options for online charges and informed Globe unions of its intent Thursday. Charging for Web content holds risks because it can drive away users who are accustomed to browsing the site for free, and in turn can lead to a loss of online advertising.

Times Co. confirmed in a regulatory filing that it had retained Goldman, Sachs&Co. to explore a potential sale of its New England Media Group, which includes the Globe, and the Telegram&Gazette of Worcester, Mass.

In an interview with the Globe Thursday, Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Chief Executive Janet Robinson said the newspaper — once on track to lose $85 million this year — is now on a much stronger financial footing thanks to concessions by Globe unions and other measures.

Sulzberger said a sale was but one option.

“We are exploring that as a possibility. It does not mean it will absolutely be the case,” he told the Globe.

“What’s important here is that the Globe be maintained as a viable business entity, whether it’s sold or we continue to operate it, and to make sure it has the financial stability to ensure its continuity,” he said.

Powers said management of the newspaper believes readers would be willing to make a financial contribution to receive Web content, and has been conducting market research over the past several months in an attempt to determine “what consumers would be willing to pay, but weighing that against any potential loss of advertising.”

The Globe was exploring several prospective pay models, including charging for so-called “verticals” within the site, such as sports or arts and entertainment, or a method by which users would get a certain number of page views at no cost, with payment required for subsequent page views, Powers said.

There was no hard and fast timetable for when a decision would be made, he said.

Many other publications have developed online subscription models or are considering doing so as the industry tries to recover from the one-two punch of readers — and advertisers — abandoning print versions for the Internet and the recession that has further weakened ad sales.

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch told analysts Wednesday that visitors to newspaper Web sites owned by the company would have to begin paying fees within the next year. News Corp.’s properties include The New York Post, The Times of London and The Sun, a popular British tabloid. The company already charges for some access to The Wall Street Journal’s Web site.

The Globe, citing unnamed sources, also reported Friday that Platinum Equity, a Los Angeles-based investment firm, had submitted a bid to buy the newspaper, becoming the third group to do so.

Platinum Equity made its first foray into newspaper publishing in May when it purchased The San Diego Union-Tribune from Copley Press Inc. for an undisclosed price.

“We don’t discuss whether or not we’re considering prospective acquisitions. Nor do we comment on market rumors that we’re looking at or bidding on particular businesses,” said Mark Barnhill, a principal at Platinum Equity, in an e-mail to the Associated Press.

The Globe previously reported on two other prospective bids, one by a group led by Boston Celtics owner Stephen Pagliuca and former Boston advertising mogul Jack Connors, and the other from a group headed by Stephen Taylor, a former Globe executive and member of the family that sold the Globe to the Times Co. for $1.1 billion in 1993. The newspaper cited unnamed people with knowledge of those offers and neither group has commented.

Powers said he could not comment on any prospective bids.

In its filing Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Times Co. indicated that the Globe’s financial situation had improved through restructuring efforts that included gaining $20 million in wage and other concessions from the newspaper’s unions.

The Globe lost $50 million in 2008, and Times Co. has said it was on track to lose $85 million this year before the agreements with the unions.

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