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Critics Respond To Times‘ Pay Wall Plans

425825719_3bf95d6e86.jpgHow long have we been living under the looming shadow that is the threat of a New York Times‘ pay wall? The answer most likely is since TimesSelect’s fall in 2007, after the paper’s first attempt at getting online readers to pay for content.

Since then, publisher Arthur Sulzberger has made vague promises, culminating in today’s announcement of a plan to launch a metered pay model on next year. It makes sense: last year saw the Times‘ hemorrhaging money (losing $35 million in the third quarter alone), and speculation that the paper wouldn’t make it to 2010.

Thankfully, Carlos Slim stepped in last year, but it still remains to be seen how the Grey Lady will make it back into the black. While alienating some readers, the metered system of content-charging that Sulzberger is planning may actually be the best compromise between giving away your product for free and going on almost total lock-down mode like the The Wall Street Journal. Under this plan, The New York Times will eventually allow you to read only a certain number of articles per month before asking you to subscribe, much like Variety or The Financial Times (although some have pointed out that the FT‘s model is looking more and more like the Journal‘s).

But even before today’s not completely unexpected announcement, media critics were chomping at the bit to react to the Times‘ possible pay plans. After the jump, a look at what some of them are saying.

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Hotel Review Site Trims Staff, Cuts Back Expanding Coverage


FishbowlNY has learned that has let some of its hotel reviewing reporters go and has plans to slow the rate that it’s expanding its coverage of new areas.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed that “a subset of reporters” had been laid off from the Web site, which launched in June. The site, which has raised $10.4 million in funding from investors like Bain Capital Ventures, had previously boasted a staff of 20 full-time reporters, who go undercover to investigate hotels and take photos that are posted, unedited, next to 2,000-word reviews. A tipster told FBNY that 15 reporters had been cut from the site’s staff, a number the company would not confirm.

Instead, Oyster issued a statement from its CEO and co-founder, Elie Seidman.

Seidman’s plans for the future of Oyster, after the jump.

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AOL Creates Content, Jobs, But At What Cost?

urlesque.jpgWhile some people might still equate AOL with that ridiculously antiquated CD-Rom that came in the mail, hideous dial-up noises and the phrase “You’ve Got Mail!” from their childhood, the media company has been working to reinvent itself in the last several years as a major producer of Web content. You may not even know it, but some of your favorite Web sites are AOL-owned, such as Urlesque, Stylelist and, yes, even TMZ…along with 67 other niche sites.

The company has also been hiring teams of freelancers to produce original content for its sites at a time when most media companies are cutting back, putting them in a unique position: AOL can produce original news without having to aggregate it from other sources. (However, despite its hiring blitz, AOL is still seeking to trim about a third of its staff in order to cut its budget for the new year.)

And now it’s time, says AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong, to start raking in the cash from this production after its split from Time Warner next month, through the use of an automated system that will tell editors and advertisers which content should draw the biggest audience.

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Caroline Little: Pay Walls Are Not “The Silver Bullet” has an interview today with Guardian News & Media’s North American CEO Caroline Little, a former Washington Post Co. digital executive who left that company last year. She joined the British media company as a consultant and was later named CEO. Now she’s in charge of marketing The Guardian‘s Web site to U.S. advertisers, with the help of a new stateside ad team.

Since Little has watched digital media since its beginnings we were eager to hear what she had to say about the prospect of making money off online advertising revenues and pay walls. To that end, she said those sorts of payments were just the beginning — media companies are going to have to find other sources of revenue in order to survive, she said:

“I think everybody’s trying to figure out how not to be so dependent on advertising. The funny thing is, newspapers in print have always had at least 80 percent of their revenue come from advertising. So I think everybody is trying to look at different lines of business. I think paying for content is just one revenue stream. I don’t think it’s going to be the silver bullet.”

Read on for more from Little’s interview

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How Much Did Your Favorite Fortune 500 Media Company Lose?

biggestloser04.21.09.jpgThe story of today is The New York Times Co.‘s disastrous first quarter results, but it’s not the only media outlet dealing with immense loses.

Over at (which cashed in during 2008), Rory Maher put together a list of media companies on the Fortune 500 list that struggled during the previous year.

Time Warner, the country’s 48th biggest company (and its largest media-related one), saw $13.4 billion fly out the door. CBS was close behind, losing $11.7 billion, while Gannett took at hit to the tune of $6.6 billion. We’d like to say this is going to get better soon, but we’d just be lying.