It’s official, the Pay Wall folks aren’t running things anymore or at least are having a nice long lunch. Perhaps we have something much more cynical and self-serving that at least *relates* to this generation’s content economy. Spotted over on AdWeek by Scott Kidder, it’s a (first of its kind?) Share Wall.
I liked The Awls’s comment when they reblogged Kidder’s finding:
I want to talk to the evil stupid-genius that invented this.
UPDATE, 1:50 pm, 5/15: Nieman Journalism Lab is now saying that it was an accidental bug, not a planned feature.
This AP piece on Newspapers and pay walls definitely caught my eye in the ol’ Google Alerts this morning. I was contemplating giving it an FJM, but I kind of stopped when this graph just hurt:
As the Internet gained in popularity in the 1990s, newspapers decided to give away news on their websites while continuing to charge readers for print editions. By keeping online editions free, publishers hoped to gain enough readers to attract Web advertising. But as readers flocked to free news on websites, many of them canceled their print subscriptions. And online advertising hasn’t generated enough revenue to make up for the combined declines in print subscriptions and print advertising.
Why? Because it blames users, and not the business practice. That sentence about “giving away news” just stings with a little bit of condescension, and print subscriptions have *never* been profitable, loss leaders to get you in and raise circulation.
Content breeds an audience, executing that audience around unique content can be profitable! At least it is more important than meters and charging for access.
The day we knew was coming, and the Times has announced its paywall model. The rumor of “meters” was the big discussion point, but apparently that means 20 articles each month for free before subscribing is necessary.
The copy of the e-mail sent to subscribers. I have highlighted the number of times it mentions that subscribers to the print version get it for free.
Dear New York Times Reader,
Today marks a significant transition for The New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions. It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform. The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our Web site and on mobile applications.
This change comes in two stages. Today, we are rolling out digital subscriptions to our readers in Canada, which will enable us to fine-tune the customer experience before our global launch. On March 28, we will begin offering digital subscriptions in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
If you are a home delivery subscriber of The New York Times, you will continue to have full and free access to our news, information, opinion and the rest of our rich offerings on your computer, smartphone and tablet. International Herald Tribune subscribers will also receive free access to NYTimes.com.
If you are not a home delivery subscriber, you will have free access up to a defined reading limit. If you exceed that limit, you will be asked to become a digital subscriber.
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 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 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.
For more information, go to nytimes.com/digitalfaq.
Thank you for reading The New York Times, in all its forms.
Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
Publisher, The New York Times
Chairman, The New York Times Company
I’m going to test a way around this: tweet the article you want to see yourself. That should be the loophole per this bullet:
- 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.
Thanks to Boing Boing for catching this little joy of passive aggressive policing on content:
This would of course be the North County Gazette, of Upstate New York, which leans heavily on the Comic Sans in its instruction.
While I’ve been visiting family in Boston for the last week, the timing worked out to overlap with an announcement from the in-town daily that it would be venturing into a pay model in the next year that includes two versions of its online property. While Boston.com will continue to publish some free, news-based stories; a new BostonGlobe.com will feature paid content from the paper that goes beyond anything that isn’t breaking or hyperlocal.
Essentially, it’s a freemium model, and that’s not exactly a bad idea for the future of the Globe’s livelihood. That is of course, depending on how it is to be used. It is quite likely that the Globe will leave things such as popular columnists behind the barrier, and that’s fine. Anyone can find out the traffic on 128 from a scan of headlines or Twitter. That’s observational news, and that exists in the free realm no matter what. But more in-depth reporting or columnists (those things that cost more to the bottom line, anyway), those can be hidden away.
The conflict at hand is how to treat paid subscribers. In the startup world of freemiums, once you become a paid VIP, the ads get stripped away and the features become more robust. But that doesn’t necessarily look to be what’s happening with the Globe, in fact, counting subscribers against ad inventory is one of the reasons newspapers are in the zone they are in right now. A note in the Nieman Lab story on the announcement mentions this potential change:
(BostonGlobe.com, for its part, will likely feature advertising, as well, though the specifics are as-yet undetermined.) Or, as Bob Powers, the Globe’s VP of Marketing and Communications, told me when I spoke with him this afternoon: On the new BostonGlobe.com, “we’ll look more to the consumers to fund the journalism.”
I could pick a fight with Brian McGrory, right now. I’m still bitter at him for a column about my alma mater last spring, and the columnist is incendiary again in this piece about why it’s time for the consumer to stop getting things for free. Just so you have it in your memory:
Free doesn’t begin to pay for the expensive journalism that’s produced here. Free doesn’t pay for reporters who keep public officials and major institutions honest, and expose them when they’re not. It doesn’t pay for the best critics in the country, as we have. It doesn’t pay for some of the best education reporters, the most attuned environment and public health reporters, sophisticated political reporters, tireless sports reporters, sharp financial reporters, and the restaurant critic who keeps chefs on their toes.
I’m not arguing that, as media consumers, we are entitled to that information. The people and journalists who uncover those stories work very hard and invest their time. The only thing is that it sounds like the consumers are to blame for the state of the industry, like we’re unappreciative. I don’t think that’s the case.
Back to the future, instead of this wonderful debate, because there is one thing that will need to be evaluated. Among those who are not currently Globe subscribers…what’s the incentive to runs out to register? Most will be satisfied with the free Boston.com, but if the Globe hopes to be successful, it’ll need a hand from The lesson may not be in journalistic media, but in technology shifts like satellite radio. The best thing that ever happened to XM and Sirius (other than merging and creating a single non-competitive platform – not a monopoly, because its competitors are traditional radio and portable, personal music) was partnerships with auto manufacturers who would install devices and offer subscription trials. Once people have it? 98 percent keep it.
The current print subscription will likely be linked to online access, a one-for-one. How do you get more? My first idea would involve partnerships with the dozens of universities in town. Work like a bank: give students access for free until they graduate, and then hook them in as paid subscribers after graduation. The Globe used to do this with print, offering discounts for in-dorm delivery. Why not go back to the new base and try to start over?
I actually like this idea, even in all my usual naysaying when it comes to paywalls. This is a logical separation, journalism versus observation. And it just may work, as long as there is a legitimate reward to becoming a subscriber.
Three weeks ago, British daily The Times erected a paywall to all of its online content. Non-registered subscribers were kicked to places where they could sign-up if they tried to find some content. How have things gone since then? According to stats from Hitwise:
- Between February and June (when the wall went live), Times has seen a 90 percent drop off in visitors, from 1.2 million daily users to just above 190,000
- Before the wall, Times accounted for 15.4 percent of all UK “quality press traffic;” now, it is just 4.16 percent
- A free online subscription is available for the 150,000 print subscribers to the paper, but estimates indicate that there are about 15,000 people who pay £2 a week for access. This works out to approximately just £1,400,000 pounds a year (approximately $2,135,560) – probably not enough to save journalism.
Data was reported by The Guardian, which doesn’t have a paywall and lets me link to it.