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The New York Times Paywall

As many of you already know, the New York Times is now requiring people to “pay” for their content. Actually, it’s a little more complicated then that.  While NYT wants to realize additional revenues for their content, they also don’t want to chase away too many people and have the effect of reducing advertising revenue.  The wall is thus “leaky” by design.

According to the NYT,

A Letter to Our Readers About Digital Subscriptions
Published: March 17, 2011

This week 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. On Thursday, we rolled 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 United States 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 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 tohttp://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.

Whatever we may think of the NYT here at HH, I recognize that NYT represents an important source of information. I plan never to pay for NYT – because I don’t want to support a biased, politically-driven newspaper. LifeHacker provides some excellent ways of getting around the wall. Mashable makes the following sensible observations:

After clicking through 20 articles on the site, further access was blocked by a pop-up message politely requesting I subscribe to read more. I was still able to read a seemingly unlimited number of articles if I clicked through from Facebook, Twitter or another online publication. I was also able to read another five by arriving via Google and, interestingly, five more if I searched through Bing, suggesting that I can simply switch search engines if I need to pull up more than five Times articles about a given subject in a 24-hour period down the road. (I’ve reached out to the Times to confirm that the paywall is supposed to work this way, and will update this post with any further information.) Update (4:05 p.m. ET): Users can access five additional articles per day through five major search engines — Ask, AOL, Bing, Google and Yahoo — for a total of 25 articles per day, a spokesperson has confirmed.

Update #2 (4:09 p.m.): Readers who have surpassed the 20-article limit can also remove “?gwh=numbers” from the URL, clear their browser caches and/or switch browsers to get rid of the pop-up message and continue reading. Thanks for the tip, @yurivictor.

This all makes a good deal of sense. The Times isn’t trying to get everyone to start paying for its digital content — in fact, the publication has repeatedly stressed that the paywall will only impact a small percentage of its readers, and it very much wants new and casual readers to continue to have access to its content. Specifically, it will impact those that have a habit of arriving at the nytimes.com to read several articles per day, and/or those who frequently access Times content through its mobile and tablet applications. It won’t impact lighter readers, and those who tend to arrive at the Times from search or social media. I fall in the latter category, and I suspect many of you do, too.


  1. colin
    April 1st, 2011 at 00:22 | #1

    I try to avoid the NYT due to their superficial and biased coverage, so it doesn’t really affect me. I do think that they are dooming themselves, cause it justs puts people off. FT and WSJ also put up paywalls, so I just stopped going to their sites. In this day and age, I find better and more truthful news and analysis from alternative sources such as blogs, social news sites, etc. No big loss for me. Good riddance NYT! Much adieu about nothing.

  2. April 1st, 2011 at 00:28 | #2

    I feel the same. I still try to keep NPR in my readings but I spend much more time with Russia Today, Chinese media, and other sources.

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