Bill Keller’s musings about online subscriptions are causing something of a storm in the blogosphere, and even making the MSM. But I’d highly recommend you read the long version of Keller’s comments, rather than the soundbite version. Keller spends 2,164 words on what he calls "navel-gazing", and the overall impression is twofold.
Firstly Keller does not think that he has any answers to the questions posed by falling circulations and ad revenue. He’s thinking about all the options, in quite a sophisticated way — as he should be. And secondly, Keller says very clearly that he’s editorial side, not business side, and that he’s not an expert on the business of publishing.
My views on these matters are pretty well known at this point: subscription firewalls tend to be self-defeating; the nonprofit model has a lot to be said for it; the NYT should seriously explore selling nontransferrable voting shares to its readers as a way of raising permanent capital. I’m glad that people within the NYT are being open about what they’re thinking, too. And although my predictive record on such matters is spotty, I very much doubt that the website will be raising any subscription firewalls any time soon. It would do much more damage to their greatest asset — their website — than it could ever raise in revenues.