New York Times Announces Paywall Rates To Begin March 28th

In less than two weeks, much of the content of The New York Times will go behind a paywall.

After more than a year of talking about it, The New York Times is taking the final steps toward locking the majority of its online content behind a paywall:

The New York Times rolled out a plan on Thursday to begin charging the most frequent users of its Web site $15 a month in a bet that readers would pay for news they have grown accustomed to getting free.

Beginning March 28, visitors to NYTimes.com will be able to read 20 articles a month without paying, a limit that company executives said was intended to draw in subscription revenue from the most loyal readers while not driving away the casual visitors who make up the vast majority of the site’s traffic.

Once readers click on their 21st article, they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages — $15 for a month of access to the Web site and a mobile phone app; $20 for Web access and an iPad app; and $35 for an all-access plan.

All subscribers who receive the paper through home delivery will have free and unlimited access across all Times digital platforms except, for now, e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

“A few years ago it was almost an article of faith that people would not pay for the content they accessed via the Web,” Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, said in his annual State of The Times remarks, which were to be delivered to employees on Thursday morning.

“This move is an investment in our future,” he said. “It will allow us to develop new sources of revenue to support the continuation of our journalistic mission and digital innovation, while maintaining our large and growing audience to support our robust advertising business. And this system is our latest, and best, demonstration of where we believe the future of valued content — be it news, music, games or more — is going.”

Mr. Sulzberger acknowledged the hurdles The Times must overcome in the minds of many readers, saying he harbored no misconceptions.

“The challenge now is to put a price on our work without walling ourselves off from the global network, to make sure we continue to engage with the widest possible audience,” he said.

Not all visits to NYTimes.com will count toward the 20-article limit. In an effort to ensure that as many as possible of the Web site’s more than 30 million monthly readers are not deterred from visiting, The Times will allow access to people who visit through search engines like Google and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. There will, however, be a five-article limit a day for people who visit the site from Google.

The 20-article limit will immediately apply to readers accessing NYTimes.com from Canada. That is to allow the company time to work out any software issues before the system goes live in the United States.

For years, newspaper companies have been offering Web access free in hopes that the online advertising market would look after their costs. But while online advertising has grown, it has not increased quickly enough to make up for the decline in traditional print advertising. So many publications have been looking at ways to make online consumers pay as they do for print.

The debate consuming the newspaper business now centers on the question that The Times hopes to answer: Can you reverse 15 years of consumer behavior and build a business around online subscriptions? Many believe the answer is no.

The Times plan is far less restrictive than the one adopted by the Times Of London, which placed all of its content behind a paywall more than a year ago and allows for no “free” access from any source. So, at least, this means that readers will still be able to read occasional stories on the site (is 20 stores a month a lot? I guess that depends who the reader is) without having to pay, It’s also interesting that links from Twitter and Facebook will not be free of these restrictions, a concession that seems to be an obvious recognition by the paper of the importance of having their content spread via social media. There doesn’t seem to be any similar concession for links from blogs, though, which means I am likely to be far less reluctant to link to content from the Times here at OTB since its not clear that everyone who reads it will be able to access the article [See Update below on this point] .I also don’t see myself putting down the $15 per month needed to get unlimited access to something that, at least for now, I can get in multiple locations for free.

It strikes me that the success of this program is still very up in the air. It’s possible that the concessions noted above will be enough to keep casual readers coming to the papers home page, thus avoiding the massive drop off in web traffic that the Times of London experienced after its paywall went up. However, it’s unclear whether this new venture will generate enough revenue to turn things around for the Grey Lady. As long as the same information is available elsewhere for free, I don’t see how this can succeed in the long run.

Update: The Times’ letter to readers about the new plan makes the following bullet points:

This is how it will work, and what it means for you:• 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.

• On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to all other sections within the apps, 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 (computer, smartphone, tablet). More information about these plans is available at www.nytimes.com/access.

• Again, all New York Times home delivery subscribers will receive free access to NYTimes.com and to all content on our apps. If you are a home delivery subscriber, go to http://homedelivery.nytimes.com to sign up for free access.

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.

• The home page at NYTimes.com and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all users at all times.

So, it would appear that following a link from a blog won’t cause you to be charged. Which again leads me to think that the Times realizes the importance of referrals from social media and  is willing to give that traffic free access in exchange for the ad revenue it generates.

 

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Media
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rick Almeida says:

    Am I making this up, or did the NYT try this before and have it fail terribly?




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  2. Rick,

    You’re thinking of “Times Select” where they placed certain “premium” content — such as the columns by people like Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich — behind a subscriber-only paywall.

    Why they thought anyone would pay extra to read MoDo is beyond me.




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  3. KipEsquire says:

    Whatever. RSS feeds already all removed from Google Reader.




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  4. Jay Tea says:

    The Times? They’re still publishing?

    Thanks for the update, Doug.

    J.




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  5. Trumwill says:

    On the one hand, if there is only one newspaper that I would pay to read the articles of, it’s either the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Wall Street Journal. And I already have a paid subscription to the WSJ.

    TimeSelect was a really bad idea in large part because they were charging for opinions. I can get opinions elsewhere. And often better opinions that are not limited by 800 words or so. But good reporting? That’s hard. That’s worth money.

    But $15 a month? That’s a lot. I may change my mind when I’m stuck not reading articles I want to read, but I doubt it. Not the least of which is that I subscribed to WSJ precisely due to my inability to read things that people link to and the NYT is apparently giving me a pass on that.




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  6. William Teach says:

    And how’d that go with Times Select? The number of mentions of Down, Krugman, and the other editorialists, including the actual Editorial Board, dropped to near zero across the blogosphere. Even liberals stopped bothering. They did away with TS, and suddenly, the editorial pages were being cited again.

    What this means is that other news sources will see a big jump in web viewership. The blogosphere and social media sites will virtually ignore the Fish Wrap. News aggregators will rarely feature a Times story.

    I’d love to know how much referral traffic they get, especially from the right side of the blogosphere. Which will die out almost immediately. Certainly, they want to make money, but, not going to happen, and, within a year, they’ll do away with this scheme.




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  7. Trumwill says:

    William, the main difference between this and TimeSelect was that the latter was for opinion pieces, which are a dime a dozen (they say opinions are like… something everyone else has got). New York Times reporting, on the other hand, is valuable. I don’t know if it’s $15/mo valuable, but it’s certainly worth more than reading their editorialists.

    It’s also possible that they will avoid the blogger/twitterer/referral problem since they let people access articles by way of referral, which TimeSelect did not do.

    I’m not saying that this is going to succeed, but it’s not the certain failure that TimeSelect was.




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  8. sam says:

    “New York Times reporting, on the other hand, is valuable. I don’t know if it’s $15/mo valuable”

    Sigh. I’ll plump for the $15, as I read more than 20 articles a week in the Times.




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  9. Brett #2 says:

    That’s a rather generous meter, far more generous than the Financial Times meter (which is something like 5 free article a month). Of course, it can probably be subverted the same way as the FT firewall. Just delete your FT.com cookies, and it resets the meter so you can keep on reading.

    I’m honestly not willing to buy a subscription for the New York Times. I can get better international coverage at the BBC Online website, better business coverage at the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, better tech coverage through blogs, better political coverage through blogs and the Washington Post, and better opinions via the blogosphere. The NYT is great . . . provided that you can only read one or two major papers. But if you read more than that, it’s not so hot.




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  10. Al says:

    Chart of the Day compares NYT’s pricing to other services. Admittedly, they use the $35 tier but even at $15 a month it doesn’t look good.




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