The New York Times’ Permeable Paywall: Coming March 28th

By  |  Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 9:30 am

Fourteen months after announcing that it was going to begin charging for heavy use of its Web site, the New York Times has revealed the details and the deadline. Starting March 28th, the newspaper will institute a $15 monthly plan for access via the Web and a phone app, a $20 plan for the Web and the iPad app, and $35 for an all-access option. Subscribers to the print edition–which costs about $63 a month (after an initial 50%-off deal), at least here in the Bay Area–will get everything for no extra charge.

(Canadians are subject to the new plan immediately–they’re serving as beta testers for us Yanks. Thanks, Canadians!)

Other than the fact that the Times is attaching a price to its online content, the most important fact about its strategy is that this paywall only goes into effect for fairly voracious readers. 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. Clearly, the goal is to extract some money out of people who treat the digital incarnations of the Times pretty much like a newspaper, without killing traffic from more casual types who come only occasionally or are directed to specific stories by their friends.

Looking around the Web, I can’t find anyone giving the Times’ new strategy a thumbs up. I do find plenty of people saying they won’t pay and criticizing the permeable paywall for being too complicated and predicting it will fail. I’m willing to give it a chance, at least–unlike failed paywalls of the past, it’s designed to be transparent to everybody but serious Times readers.

So will I pay up? Well…maybe. Probably. Especially since it’s a deductible business expense, and especially since I cheerfully admit to having a bias in favor of the idea of people being willing to pay for high-quality content.

I don’t understand, however, why the all-access plan costs as much as the Web/phone and Web/iPad plans put together. Doesn’t that mean that all-access subscribers are paying for the Web twice? (Sounds to me it’s like a restaurant that charges $15 for a burger and Coke, $20 for a burger and fries, or $35 for a burger, a Coke, and fries.)

Of course, whether any one person (especially any one person who happens to be in the media himself) is willing to pay up is immaterial. The opinions that matter are those of the millions of people who aren’t used to paying for news on the Web. So here’s a silly little poll…



11 Comments For This Post

  1. JCS Says:

    I owe them! I have been reading the NYT online for years and haven't paid a penny – or killed any trees. I'll pay.

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  3. onordpol Says:

    Paradises exist to be lost I suppose, but $15 a month is deceptively steep. In effect, I'd be adding 50 percent to my Internet access bill for a SINGLE content source. Once this camel gets its nose into the tent, others will follow and before I know it, content fees could become a significant drain on the budget. As the late, great Senator Everett Dirksen said: "A billion dollars here. A billion dollars there. Pretty soon it's adding up to real money."

  4. Fred Says:

    So how long until somebody creates a tool to automatically feed NYT links through other sources to evade the paywall? Everybody thought it was a great idea when it was The Daily, so it's still a great idea when it's the NYT, right?

  5. Harry McCracken Says:

    I'm sure people will come up with clever ways of evading the paywall.

  6. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    I think this is a great plan: continue allowing casual users (as myself) but charging regulars, because they, as the article says, actually use the site as a main source of information.

    Now I just hope this paywall WORKS: if it allows or blocks access to users that should be blocked/allowed access, this could blow up in their faces…

  7. RubberBoy Says:

    There are so many sources of free information on the web, it does not make sense to pay the Times.
    Furthermore, their articles are all too often tainted with with a liberal bias, it would amount to paying for propaganda material…

    I wish them luck, but I doubt wether the latter will smiled upon them.

  8. jltnol Says:

    Look.. The Times actually already TRIED to get people to pay to see their website. It didn't work, so they went with ad sponsored income. What makes them think it'll work this time is beyond me.



    There, done. Gone from my web favorites. See how easy that was?

  9. @prosperhappily Says:

    No, I'm not going to pay.

    Most of the news is covered on multiple sites. I'll focus on them. If the Times has a must-read exclusive, I'll go there. But, not often enough to trigger the pay wall.

    As someone above noted, the Times is pretty biased. I wouldn't go so far as to call it propaganda. But, I definitely keep the bias in mind when reading it.

    I will miss their comedy writer, Paul Krugman. Reading him is like reading "The Onion on economics".

  10. ebpp Says:

    news is a commodity, the only thing you are paying a premium on is the opinion part of the news,

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