Strong opinions, weakly held

The New York Times tries to thread the needle

The New York Times is about to embark on its latest experiment in getting online readers to pay up. They posted the details today. If you visit the Web site, you’ll be placed under the following constraint:

On NYTimes.com, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.

They are allowing readers who are referred to the site from blogs to read those articles:

Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

I may or may not pay for the site, but I’m glad they’re going to take some steps to make sure that their relevance doesn’t fall too far in terms of being a site referenced on blogs. I generally don’t subscribe to sites behind paywalls because even if I enjoy them, I can’t link to them from the blog.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the New York Times can thread the needle of earning subscription revenue without losing in the market for attention. Most other sites that have tried it have not done well.

Update: Felix Salmon has some thoughts on the New York Times’ pricing model. I noticed this oddity as well:

Beyond that, $15 per four-week period gives you access to the website and also its smartphone app, while $20 gives you access to the website also its iPad app. But if you want to read the NYT on both your smartphone and your iPad, you’ll need to buy both digital subscriptions separately, and pay an eye-popping $35 every four weeks. That’s $455 a year.

The message being sent here is weird: that access to the website is worth nothing. Mathematically, if A+B=$15, A+C=$20, and A+B+C=$35, then A=$0.

Update: Cory Doctorow’s comments are worth reading as well.


  1. I give it 20 minutes before someone starts a blog whose only purpose is to link to NYT articles, thereby allowing everyone to view all articles.

  2. Adam Vandenberg

    March 17, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Similar to the previous “search for it on Google, as they allow Google referrers to get in for free.”

  3. It’s essentially an honor system as well – once you reach 20+ articles you can reset the count by clearing all your nyt cookies.

  4. It’s already a known “hack” that if you want to read a Wall Street Journal article, all you have to do is search for the headline in Google and then click on the link. Rarely do I find it worth it to do so, though.

  5. Wall Street Journal article, all you have to do is search for the headline in Google and then click on the link.

    Ditto for the Financial Times.

    It appears that this whole mess is a doomed-to-fail attempt to protect their print side. If I subscribe to the dead-tree version, then I get everything digital for free (sans apps, I think).

    John hit it on the head, in fact I was thinking of how I’d set up such a “NYTimes Portal” while I was reading this post. To add even more value, one would probably include FT and WSJ stories.

    Such a thing would KILL the newspapers, as most newspaper website is for the front page. The retaliation would most likely be swift and brutal.

    *** Hey, what happened to the preview, Rafe? Sheesh, at least switch to MT or (shudder) WordPress so we can have formatting, OpenID, blah, blah….

  6. Oh man, 1/2 my comment got eaten. Bah. Preview, grumble, grumble.

  7. Ah, you ARE using WP. So, what’s with the crippled comments?

  8. I need to put the preview back, for sure. Not sure what happened to it.

  9. I’ll pay. I’ve been wanting them to create a way for me to give them money that doesn’t effectively reward bad behavior – which I define as a uniform paywall like the FT or WSJ, or forcing you into a crappy IOS application, or whatever. 20 articles a month is decent and for an addict like me, paying is not going to be a problem.

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