It looks like the New York Times is serious about charging for online content. The paper's editor in chief Bill Keller has discussed his plans to adopt a metered model for online content. The plan would only charge so-called heavy users of the website. Most people would be allowed to go on through to the content without paying. However, subscribers to the print edition will get access to the website at no additional charge. The changes will go into effect in January.
Keller prefers this system as it is less restrictive than a traditional "pay wall" model. "Under our metered model, basically people who use Nytimes.com as their newspaper, who read a lot and depend on it, will be asked to pay a small subscription price,” said Keller. The plan will also make some of the most popular content available freely to everyone in order to drive traffic and encourage subscriptions.
Do you think it can work? We imagine they will be tracking users via IP addresses and that could be easy to spoof. The Wall Street Journal makes quite a bit selling an online subscription, but their content is mainly aimed at business people with expense accounts. Do you read more than a few articles per month on the Times' website?
We've heard of pay-as-you-go cell phones, but can the same concept be applied to PCs? Microsoft thinks it can, who filed a patent application in June 2007 detailing a new PC business model. U.S. patent application 20080319910, published on Christmas Day, outlines how end-users would be charged based on usage time and performance levels in exchange for a free or heavily subsidized PC, in addition to a "one-time charge."
While not a rent-to-own scenario, Microsoft concedes that this business model could result in end users paying more for their PC in the long-run than buying it outright. But that's okay, the Redmond company says, because the result would be a PC with an extended "useful life."
"A computer with scalable performance level components and selectable software and service options has a user interface that allows individual performance levels to be selected," the patent application reads. "The scalable performance level components may include a processor, memory, graphics controller, etc. Software and services may include word processing, email, browsing, database access, etc. To support a pay-per-use business model, each selectable item may have a cost associated with it, allowing a user to pay for the services actually selected and that presumably correspond to the task or tasks being performed."
Microsoft says its proposed business model would allow a more granular approach to both hardware and software sales, rather than forcing PC vendors to try and maximize profits on a one-time sale. To give an example, the company points out a scenario with three bundles of applications and performance, where the Office bundle would cost end users $1 per hour, a Gaming bundle $1.25 per hour, and a browsing bundle $0.80 per hour. Alternately, a specific bundle could incur a one-time charge instead of usage-based billing.
Is Microsoft on to something, or on something with its metered computing vision? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.