"What wasn't anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and by [other search engines]." - NY Times
Whether you're active in the blogosphere or not, you've probably heard by now that the New York Times is dropping their web charges in favor of the increased web traffic and advertising dollars they will get by offering their content for free.
The New York Times has finally recognized the drastic and powerful effects of blogs, podcasts, and other social media and they're now taking advantage of it. They're scrapping their TimesSelect subscription service - currently bringing in $10 million in annual revenue - and offering free access to (most of) their archives and new articles. Why would such an established news company scrap a profitable program to offer the same content for free?
Because they can earn even more by doing some simple search engine optimization and internet marketing. "What changed, the Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com." Read the article Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site.
What has changed? Most people's primary news resource is a search engine. Even an established news organization such as the NYT gets most of their traffic by showing up at the top of searches on Google, Yahoo, or MSN. The NY Times really gets it now - in addition to offering their content for free, they also list their most emailed and most blogged articles, and for some articles they even link directly to "What the blogs are saying" about that article, and they have a "share" section with links to Facebook, Digg and Newsvine.
In their letter to TimesSelect subscribers about the decision, they encouraged them to continue to "read our news and opinions - as well as share it, link to it and comment on it" - because the real power is contained in the links stretching across the blogosphere.
The coolest part about this, at least for me, is that it shows how powerful the blogosphere is and what a huge opportunity there is here for small businesses especially. If people are firstly going to search engines for information and click on the top results - then any small business is able to compete on a level playing field with companies ten (or a hundred or a thousand) times bigger.
Other news organizations have been realizing the same thing - LA Times tried charging for web access but abandoned it when it caused a sharp decline in web traffic. And now the Wall Street Journal, with the largest paid online base with about 1 million users generating $65 million in revenue annually for the company, is now talking about removing their charges and making The Journal free online.
Key issues to consider:
1) The New York Times - one of the biggest media brands in the world - is getting more website traffic from SEO and links than from people goig directly to their well known website.
2) Having a strategy to get found on the web is essential for your small or medium business - because you are much less well known than the NY Times!