I got to thinking today that the four major news Web sites offer four graduated levels of content access:
CNN: Anonymous access. Just about everything at CNN.com is free (with the exception of some streaming video). You don’t have to register or answer any questions. No restrictions.
USA Today: Anonymous demographics. USA Today just started asking three questions when you try to access its content: year of birth, gender, and zip code. However, they don’t ask for your name or any other identifying information.
New York Times: Registered, but free, access. You have register with the New York Times to access content on their site. You have to identify yourself, provide an email, and give up some other information. However, you never have to pay a fee.
Wall Street Journal: Full subscription. This is the most restrictive. You have to register as with the New York Times, and you also have to pay something like $59 a year.
Which model will still be standing in 10 years? I honestly don’t know.