The New York Times Paywall Works Backwards! LOL

by francine Hardaway on April 24, 2011

The New York Times has shot itself in the foot with this ridiculous paywall strategy. Until recently, I’d been reading the Times online for over a decade. I was already there to greet it when it came online in 1996, and I celebrated every improvement in its web site and its apps.

But like all newspapers, the Times is having trouble making money online. For some reason, the two simplest solutions to its problem, micro-payments per article for individuals or pay-for-placement in desirable spots for brands, either haven’t been considered or haven’t worked. Instead, the times has instituted an expensive subscription (it’s more expensive to subscribe online that to have the paper delivered to my door) plan that is also very difficult to understand. The part I do know is that the first 20 articles every month are free.

Once readers click on their 21st article, they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages — $15 every four weeks for access to the Web site and a mobile phone app (or $195 for a full year), $20 for Web access and an iPad app ($260 a year) or $35 for an all-access plan ($455 a year). All subscribers who take home delivery of the paper 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. Subscribers to The International Herald Tribune, which is The Times’s global edition, will also have free digital access.

I have been reading the Times all my life. I am capable of blowing that limit on one Sunday. In Google Reader I now subscribe to the headlines, the world news, the business news, and the most e-mailed articles. And then I love to read the occasional Magazine article. You could call me a heavy Times reader. The Times Lady came into our elementary school classroom when I was ten and showed us how to fold the paper to read it at the table and in the subway.

The Times Lady is long dead, and so is the Times’ concern for its readers. Even after desperately trying NOT to click on articles directly from the site (if you click on them through social media they are still free), I just got a notice that I have two articles left before I hit the wall and it’s a week before the end of the month.

What mistaken strategy did I employ? Simple. I clicked on Nicholas Kristoff’s Twitter link to his fine article on human trafficking in America, and then I made the mistake of following a link on the site to an opinion piece on Medicare, which concerns me even more than the fate of young girls.

But I didn’t find the Medicare article first, dammit, and I “wasted” one of my scarce links reading Nicholas Kristoff.

What a stupid thing to do: encourage your readers to limit how much they read of your product. What if I had clicked on a link within the article itself to another Times resource? I’d be over the top, or hitting the wall. This is the opposite of what we are encouraged to do on the worldwide web, which is dig deeper, drill down, follow links to be better informed.

I wonder how long it will take the Gray Lady to figure this out? Now she has made me angry and defiant, and even less likely to subscribe. So much for reading online; I will pick the Times out of the waste basket at Starbucks.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris April 25, 2011 at 1:40 am

Nice final word, Francine!

Me, I couldn’t be bothered to read the Times. There’s plenty of other quality sources on this vast web.

Anonymous April 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm

The Readability bookmarklet gets you around the 20 article limit. Highly recommended.

AzHr April 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm

And back when they first announced the pending change I decided I would subscribe – only because we need the type of thorough diverse reporting that the Times provides, and I’m willing to help them pay the costs of that product.

hardaway April 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I’d be willing to pay as well if I could pay for what I want to consume.
Right now, i don’t want paper delivery, and without that I have a steep
price for access on all the different devices I use to read news.

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