The NY Times latest attempt to return to the 20th century is, at best, absurd. There are a number of troubling aspects to this development, but what really gets me is that even after ten years of light-speed growth in digital culture, some people still think it is both possible and desirable to return to the good old days of mass media.
But rather than complain, I would instead like to offer some ideas about how the NY Times could keep the lights on without behaving like it's still a 1960 Mad Men kind of world.
1) Offer a really awesomely designed iPad app for $7-$10 that a customer pays for once, which gives them access to all their content forever. I for one would pay that much on a one time basis for news eye candy. While their iPad app is decent right now, it could still be way better.
2) Offer articles for free if people fill out a ~20 question demographics survey, so that advertisements could be better targeted. I still see ton of ads on the NY Times site that I have absolutely no interest in. A well-designed survey like this could greatly improve the ability for the NY Times to match me with their advertisers.
3) Do suggestion 2, but instead of / in addition to a survey, offer articles for free if a reader agrees to allow the NY Times to use machine learning to predict what their interest in products might be. Netflix and Amazon do this already, and since the NY Times has been following my choices for 12 years, they certainly should be able to figure out what I might be interested in ad-wise. Why the heck am I still seeing ads for Steuben's Glass???
4) Give people a chance to buy ads off the page. Some people might feel creepy about their reading habits being tracked, so why not simply offer them a choice to read the articles without ads for a modest fee. I probably wouldn't go this direction myself, but there certainly are many who would.
5) Do all of the above, and preserve the current idea that modest use of the site would not require an account.
Anyway, that is my two cents. Thoughts?