Demand-Based Variable Pricing For Publications
Maybe Times and other publications that are trying to figure out a way to charge for their content could consider the innovative pricing model that music site Amie Street uses to sell MP3s:
"As more and more people buy a song, its price goes higher and higher, and the most popular songs reach the maximum price of 98 cents. So price is a measure of popularity. If you're into discovering new music, you can find and download great new artists for free or next to nothing. And you also know that when you see a song priced at 98 cents it's because that song is very popular and a lot of people have bought it."
In other words, all articles start free, and the more readers they attract, the more expensive they become. Over time, as the interest subsides, the prices would gradually slide back down.
Publishers could also encourage email forwarding, retweeting and other forms of pass-along behavior by crediting sharers' accounts with some percent of the revenue they generate -- this also is part of Amie Street's model. Some publications could go even further and offer affiliate commissions that would encourage off-site back-linking and drive paying traffic; Apple, for example, has one for its iTunes store that pays a 5% commission on sales.
And advertisers? They might find value in underwriting popular content that fits their brands.