Monday, March 21st, 2011
Fans of The Gray Lady have one more week to browse her content online without limit or cost. Next Monday, March 28, the New York Times will launch its “paywall” internationally, which will restrict the amount of online content reader can view for free. So far, the move, which Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. calls an “investment in The Times,” is receiving rather skeptical press.
Given the Times’s affluent readership, that gamble may pay off in a way that could be beyond the reach of other metropolitan dailies—unless we all become accustomed to the notion that someone has to pay for good journalism.
Quick: How many links did you follow to the NYT last month? I’ll bet you a testicle* that you can’t remember. And even if you could remember, could you tell me what proportion of them originated as a social media or search-engine link?
You can read 20 articles a month at no charge. People who come to the site via Google will be able to read five stories a day for free; visitors from Facebook and Twitter won’t have to pay.
In the “web versus app” debate, the Times seems to be taking sides. Because every mobile device has a browser, the Times could have created a tier that did not include an app component, but it chose not to. You get the web version of the paper tossed in any subscription, print or digital.
It feels like something that was completely developed by committee group-think. It’s one of those things where they’re sitting around and someone timidly suggests a dumb idea (“I know, for $5 more we take away their smartphone access”) and, because they have to come up with something, someone else says “sure” and then they think there’s validation of a good idea.
Let me remind you that all this negative hype is over a subscription model that hasn’t even launched yet. While bloggers and other news junkies have been quick to dump on New York Times, a couple of outside parties are already showing approval. Citi has officially upgraded NYT stock to “buy” and Rupert Murdoch’s new iPad pub, the Daily, ends its trial subscriptions today, implementing its own paywall one week ahead of the Times.
How many articles to your read from NYT a day? Once you’ve read your allotment, and then bypassed the wall 5 times per search engine, will you pay for more? Or will you just click over to another source?