By paulgillin | March 18, 2011 - 9:05 am - Posted in Fake News

We were so choked with joy to finally read details of The New York Times‘ paywall plan, which was announced yesterday, that we didn’t quite know what to say. So we’ll let others do the talking:
“This is how it will work, and what it means for you:

  • On, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge, [after which] we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.
  • On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For all other sections, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.
  • The Times is offering three digital subscription packages that allow you to choose from a variety of devices.
  • All home delivery subscribers will receive free access to and to all content on our apps.
  • Readers who come to Times articles through links will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit.
  • The home page at and all section fronts will remain free.”

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.

New York Times paywall notice

On day one, at least, opinion on the web seems widely negative—although, perhaps it’s just that the angriest people are the ones that we tend to hear from first? The Guardian, whose management has long defended the free-for-all model, is conducting a poll on its website, asking readers about the Times online, ‘Will you become a subscriber?’ I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised that the ‘No, I’ll read my 20 free articles and move on’ would get a whopping 93 percent, with only 7 percent (as of this writing) voting for ‘Yes, its news and opinion are a must-have.’”

Columbia Journalism Review

“It’s a high price, a gamble, and a big hedge…against print subscribers migrating too quickly to the tablet. Since it is not charging print subs, it’s going to be an uphill battle to get non-print people to pay a minimum of $195 a year for something that was free, and it eschews conventional wisdom that $9.95 a month is a consumer limit on many digital items. The lack of an annual offer is glaring, and makes it far less friendly to expense accounts for business readers.”

Ken Doctor on Nieman

“An apparent (and likely very purposeful) loophole in The New York Times paywall plans: At least two of the newspaper’s home delivery subscription packages—which also come with unlimited access to the website and apps—are cheaper than the “all digital access” subscription package.”

“This won’t work.”

Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing

“I suspect twenty free stories is too high, particularly when combined with the porous backdoor from social media. But it’s better to start off high and then gradually adjust it as the data comes in and you see what the effect is. And that’s a key thing to remember here: This is just a start.”

Columbia Journalism Review

“Nobody disputes the assertion that the Times cannot survive without increasing its revenues. Because I need the Times in my life—to read and to bitch about—I have no problem with the paper ejecting as many free-riders as necessary and soaking as many of the habituated (you’re looking at one) to make the paper prosper. So as we pick the mortar from the paywall and heave the loose bricks over the top at the Times noggins, keep this in mind: The pricing scheme and process by which the paper evicts its millions of squatters doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to increase revenues appreciably.”

Jack Shafer on Slate

“There’s a great big hole in that wall that the Times doesn’t mention in its FAQ or press release. According to sources close to the situation, the 20-story limit can be breached if you access the site from multiple devices, and/or if you delete your cookies. In other words, suppose you hit the wall on your PC. Then move to your laptop, where you’ll get another 20 stories. Delete your cookies on any computer, and the clock goes back to zero.”

Bill Grueskin on

“We believe at least 500,000 people (or more than 10 percent of those heavy users) may be willing to pay up—and here’s how we get to that number…”

“Let’s say that realistically the NYT is going after a universe of no more than 800,000 people that it’s going to ask to subscribe. And let’s be generous and say that 15% of them do so, paying an average of $200 per year apiece. That’s extra revenues of $24 million per year. [That] is a minuscule amount for the New York Times company as a whole; it’s dwarfed not only by total revenues but even by those total digital advertising revenues of more than $300 million a year. This is what counts as a major strategic move within the NYT?”

Felix Salmon on Retuers

“We asked some of our favorite media thinkers…to weigh in on the model’s pricing, packaging, and more. (Also asked: Are you going to subscribe?) Here are reactions from Steven Brill, Steve Buttry, David Cohn, Anil Dash, Jason Fry, Dan Kennedy, Martin Langeveld, Megan McCarthy, Geneva Overholser, Jonathan Stray, and Amy Webb. And please do share your own thoughts and reactions, as well.”

Nieman Journalism Lab

Poynter’s Julie Moos aggregates some of the best tweets from journalists and people in Canada, where the paywall will be tested first.

The New York Times communications staff emailed out this slide deck to media writing about their new paywall plan. (And trust me, we’ve been writing about it.) The deck lays out the basics of the plan, but also gives an idea of the pitch is meant to read to advertisers and investors, not just readers.”

Nieman Journalism Lab


“How about this, New York Times: You bring back the ‘On Language’ column, and I’ll take out a digital subscription.”

John McIntyre

Readers who come to Times articles through Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. A new Twitter account has been set up with the apparent intention of making most or all of the website available this way: @FreeNYT Everywhere

“[The plan is encouraging] for two main reasons: firstly, it recognizes the importance of distribution in online publishing. If you erect an arbitrary paywall, many people will not bother to link to you because they don’t want to frustrate their friends….Secondly, it recognizes that they need to balance quality with quantity. Online advertising has yet to settle into any sort of pattern, but metrics of engagement are rising in importance, and one of those metrics is how much traffic comes from recommendations, i.e. social media.”

Online Journalism Blog

“From my office in Cambridge, I created a new dummy account and logged onto a Canadian proxy — a server that allows you to appear to a website to be coming from somewhere you aren’t. Then I went a-click-click-clickin’ all over, hoping to run into the 20 article limit. When I hit No. 20, this popped up in the lower-left corner of my browser window:”

Joshua Benton on Nieman



This entry was posted on Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 9:05 am and is filed under Fake News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. March 18, 2011 @ 10:12 am

    We’ll get some metrics on how well this will be accepted but the rules are complex enough while being flexible enough on content that its going to spark two distinct reactions:

    1) can’t be bothered, here’s my credit card info so you don’t bother me again,
    2) can’t be bothered, goodbye.

    For most of the marketplace, (people outside the physical Times distribution area,) its going to be #2 but for for about 800,000 people per day its going to be #1.

    The 1,500,000 casual monthly visitors (people who only read the Times when there’s something specific on) will not be affected.

    Posted by msbpodcast