How Do The NY Times Paywall Results Compare To Its Last Paywall?

from the looking-similar dept

One of the oddities in the NY Times introducing its recent emperor's new paywall is the fact that the NYT already played this game and failed a few years ago. Back in 2006, over a year before the NYT finally realized this was a dumb idea, we had pointed out that it appeared its subscriber numbers had totally plateaued, foreshadowing the end of the paywall. I was reminded of that after some were saying that the NYT's recent announcement of 100,000 subscribers to its (still discounted) paywall shows that it's on a path to success.

With that in mind, it's fascinating to see Joshua Benton, over at the Nieman Lab, compare the results of the TimesSelect paywall with this new paywall, and suggest that the initial results aren't really that impressive in that they track the results from last time. After scouring reports to find out how many people signed up for TimesSelect, he put together this chart that shows the clear plateau:
So it looks like the last time around, they quickly jumped out to about 100,000 subscribers... and then things slowed down and they had to slog it out for new subscribers. This time around the paywall situation is definitely different. This paywall covers the entire NY Times, but is much more leaky. So you have one force pushing more people to subscribe... and another that diminishes the reasons to subscribe. But the key point remains. The success (or failure) is going to be determined by how many people the paper can convince to keep signing up... and I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the NY Times is going to find it hard to grow this part of their business in any significant way over time.


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  1.  
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    leichter (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 3:35am

    ...and it doesn't even work reliably

    For all the effort and money, the Times's paywall doesn't even work right. My wife ran into it last weekend. She'd apparently reached her limit of 20 stories. We're actually long-time paper subscribers, so "just had to log in". Except it wouldn't work. She actually called the Times support line. They had us clear cookies, log out, and log back in again. That worked for one or two stories - at which point it kicked in again.

    Fortunately, for Safari uses, there's a *built in workaround*: Just click the "Reader" button.

    There are so many levels on which the Times just doesn't get it. They pissed off a very long time subscriber, wasted support costs (non-trivial, if you look at general industry costs) for *two* calls, the second of which was just a complaint that it didn't work - and ended up with another person who now knows how to get around their code when she needs to.

    -- Jerry

     

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    AJBarnes, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 5:07am

    Why bother?

    Why would anyone want to pay money for biased, distorted and untruthful news reporting? Clearly the Gray Lady has lost all credibility as a new source. Getting people to pay you to read their version of the truth? Well, as they say... if you can't report the news, just make it up!

     

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    YGor, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 5:23am

    Really?

    AJBarnes -- if NY Times is not your cup of team, DON'T read it. DON'T pay for it -- in fact why comment on this story in the first place. The assumption is that those people who enjoy reading the times -- which I don't but my wife does, what will they do? Will they sign up, look for workarounds or stop reading. We're thinking about getting a weekender subscription which comes with online access. Which is actually cheaper than getting the online access only -- so the numbers need to take into account how many people signed up for home delivery to get the online version of the paper. Oh, and it's not the news my wife reads most of the time it's opinion pieces and editorials, which some people find interesting -- but hey -- if all you do is troll on the internet, how would you what's in a real news paper? Btw, this is the reason I subscribe to ESPN the magazine, to get the espn.com insider -- I couldn't care less about the dead tree version, but I have to get it to get the insider. The business model is backwards -- force you to pay for dead trees to get access to the real content online.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 7:49am

    Re: Why bother?

    "Why would anyone want to pay money for biased, distorted and untruthful news reporting?"

    A couple days ago a woman tried to give me a "free paper". I looked at her like she was trying to hand me a rotting dead fish. The conclusion I came to was, free doesn't work for scarce goods that nobody wants.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 8:12am


    The NYTimes is of course a fabulous read, and their blogs are managed to be very readable and most enjoyable.

    The hawk-cam on City Room with eggs perhaps to soon hatch is marvelous.

    But they do not have a single ad running on those links that have thus far seen over 25 million viewer minutes on Livestream.

    Paywall, schmaywall, they need to sell ads.

     

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    Danny (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Really?

    Interesting. I'd considered becoming an ESPN Insider years ago when it was cheap - and didn't include a dead tree magazine. I see it is no longer cheap and I gotta kill trees now.

    But it is their right to bundle. Just like I can't buy one NHL Playoff game on Versus, I have to get the whole thing.

    Perhaps they've done the math and it makes sense for them. But they don't get me.

    Re: The NYTimes. I dropped their app on my iPad and I am finding I don't miss it so much. Some of my RSS bundler apps give me unlimited NYTimes articles (other bundler apps stop me at 20 -- not sure what the difference is under the hood). But I am finding I am relying more on the Washington Post and other media sources now through those bundler apps.

    Life will go on and the market will find some sort of equilibrium.

     

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  7.  
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    B Brewer, Jul 5th, 2011 @ 5:40pm

    Re: Really?

    Dead-tree advertising pays FAR more than online impressions... Things making any more sense after that statement?

     

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