Another Click in the Wall

March 17 2 Comments Category: Business

You might’ve run across news about the New York Times metered paywall that’s spinning all over the web. The letter from the publisher and the Times article cover the basic details.

I made a little chart showing the range of subscription options. The paper delivery prices are for full subscription only, even though right now they’re running a limited-time, 50%-off sale.

NYT Price Points

New York Times subscription prices

But why isn’t there a web-only price? Say, for $2.50/wk ($130/yr). And they’re pushing paper — it’s cheaper to get Mon-Fri paper delivery–which includes all digital options–than to get just all digital. And “all digital” means web browsers and Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Google’s Android products get a diss for now. (See click limits below for diss #2.)

You can’t compare the Times to the Wall Street Journal exactly, but why does the Times cost 2-4 times more? WSJ’s digital-only price is $103.48/yr vs. the cheapest Times’ option at $195/yr. The digital+print, 6-day-week Journal is $139.88/yr vs the 7-day-week Times option at $600/year.

I have lots of other questions:

– “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.” Won’t this bias people against poking around the Times’ site? People depend more and more on non-content-generating sites to help them find stuff, so this strategy seems like a shove in that direction.

– How long will the find-us-elsewhere-and-get-in-free thing last? Will they start requiring quotas or else throttling access? In other words, will they penalize the little guys or the big guys?

– Google gets a 5-click limit. Will that affect the Times’s Google ranking?

– Are visits tallied via cookies? If so, then I only have to go Incognito (on Chrome) or clear my cache before I hit the 20-hit limit, and I avoid the pay wall. If you’re really bent on dodging payment, of course, you’ll find your shady way. In the end, the Times is probably counting on people thinking they should pay for a service they find important. Will people think of the Times the way they think of PBS or NPR?

– The pricing and expectations seem tailored for people who are die-hard Timesians and/or think saving the Times equals saving journalism. I hit the Times site at least once a day, and will certainly pay, but is this a sustainable model across journalism? Only a powerful name brand (the most powerful, probably) like the Times could pull this off. I would’ve liked to have seen them setting a replicable standard instead.

2 Responses

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  1. Great write-up, and thanks for pointing out what options really make $ense. The cookies question is also one I have — and it seems to me that the workaround for that would be so simple, no?

    Here’s another article I ran into about the “Newsonomics” of the pay wall, complete with different scenarios and what they would entail.

    Mariana Keller 20 March 2011 at 3:52 am Permalink
    • Yeah, I liked the thoroughness of that Nieman write-up. Ken Doctor’s book was an interesting read, and his blog is worth keeping an eye on, too.

      Indrani Datta 20 March 2011 at 6:12 am Permalink

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