Details Leak For The NY Times Paywall

from the sounds-leaky dept

It’s taken well over a year from when it was first announced, but the details of the NY Times’ paywall are finally leaking. It seems to mesh with whatever hints NYT’s execs have been making over the past year, in which they’re trying to come up with a system that doesn’t really piss off too many people — and the end result sounds like an offering that isn’t that appealing. It starts by rewarding the print subscribers — getting the basic equation backwards. People who subscribe to the paper edition get stuff for free. But from there, it focuses on the iPad edition, which the NYT, like many other publications, seems to be betting on as the savior platform. The iPad app — which is currently free — is going to start costing money. The website itself will also cost money, but will let you visit a few times for free (like the Financial Times) and will let you visit via a Google search (like the Wall Street Journal). Basically, it sounds like there are so many holes in the paywall that the only people who pay will be folks who don’t really care and would pay anyway. It almost makes you wonder why they don’t just set up a donation bin instead, because people who are paying are effectively donating anyway.

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Comments on “Details Leak For The NY Times Paywall”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Actually, it sounds like they are close to getting it right, rewarding their existing paying customer base, allowing for those “sideway links” from social sites, and at the same time working to make the true freeloaders pay.

I know it goes against the whole freetard mentality here, but they really seem to be on the right track here.

AnonX says:

Freetard metality

Once upon a time newspapers existed through advertsing alone. Even today many small organizations and things like high school newspapers charge close to nothing and local stores pay for advertsing space within the pages. Is it free if there are advertisements in it? As evidence of a modern business working- somehow this site exists due to online adversting and alternate sources of revenue.

It is possible that the NYT needs to restructure to be a business that exists in the 21st century and forget about operations from the 1950s. Less overhead in high paid reporters will keep the business afloat. Beat reporters are being replaced by bloggers and alternate direct sources. This is not a freetard mentality. It is more of a business reality and the changing means of more easily communicating information creates less value on the information. Today we have too much information and the information holds very little value. It is the interpretation and sorting (Google) of information that holds extreme value. Information alone holds an approaching value of zero.

Anonymous Coward says:


working to make the true freeloaders pay

I do pay. I give them my time and attention and they get to advertise to me. If that won’t sustain their business then it looks like they are in the wrong line of work.

You call me a “freetard” but you are an actual retard:

1. To keep delaying; to continue to hinder; to prevent from progress; to render more slow in progress; to impede; to hinder; as, to retard the march of an army; to retard the motion of a ship; — opposed to accelerate. [1913 Webster]

Anonymous Coward says:


Taking your insult first, let’s say that the only thing retarded is assuming that everything is free. What you may need to understand is that the freetard mentality is what is actually slowing things down, because there are very few functional business models that support “everything free all the time”. There isn’t enough advertising money to go around to support everything you want for nothing, and many of your friends and supporters will turn on their ad blocking software at the first sign of a banner ad.

The advertising model online isn’t the same slam dunk it is in print. As I said, ad blocking software can really put a crimp in it, giving someone the newspaper without any method to support it.

When the freetards wake up, they will realize that they are also being the ones to retard progress.

Berenerd (profile) says:


i would certainly PAY for the NYT article if they actually had anything worth reading. I get to read it for free because my company pays for it and it sits in our lobby for all to read. There are a few articles worth reading but not enough for me to subscribe to it. One day these business models might actually include substance that people would be willing to pay for.

Major says:


You are absolutely right !

Oh and by the way did you forget than posting as a AC is supposed to cost 3.99$ to substain the weight of your ignorance on TD database ?

There isn’t enough advertising money to go around to support everything you want for nothing

[citation needed] seriously… or pay up, NOW ! or we sue the shit out of you !

Anyway, Let us sleep in peace you insensitive clot !

Oh wait nevermind we are the only one awake it seem :/

keep on dreaming dude…

AnonX says:

Not Free- You just Don't understand business principles

Yes the term Freetard is insulting and not an accurate for advertsing business models -of which newspapers have always traditionally been. It is not unrealistic to believe that the traditional and foundational starting point for the NYT (and like-businesses based on advertising) would continue to be the core foundation of their business practice unless there was a significant change to the content or product provided.

I see no evidence that the product will change, improve or be organized in a more effeciently utilzable manner. In the absence of change in product to improve value, I see movement toward a price increase as a significant barrier to the company’s future. Basic business principle of supply and demand still exist. Information supply is increasing and demand is decreasing due to alternate source of news specializing in new means of specifically providing information on demand and at a near zero cost. In baisc terms for the NYTs this means eventual failure unless there is a significant change in their delivery or providing a different product to the market. Right now the NYTs has not differenciated itself enough to demand a different market rate and remain competitive. This is a failure waiting to happen.

I think Google would disagree with you on free advertsing based models. In the 10 years since the initial release of stock at $100 a share, they have managed on almost nothing, but advertsing revenue alone to increase its value to over 500%. Google continues to provide manufactures their cell phone OS Android(free of charge)and continue costly development of this OS for the exclusive right to advertising access and data gathering. Google is a business to gathering and reselling information much like a newspaper. The difference is that they found a way to add value to the user in reselling the data back. This gives them a competitive advantage in all advertsing markets.

What the newpaper needs to do is find better ways to connect with it’s user base and sell them value added content. they must figure out ways to deliver advertisers to their user base. Making a connection between knowing the materials you are providing and selling goods through the niche community market that the newpaper has already created is and always will be the core of profitability to the business model. Not understanding and alienating the users of your community is a sure way to go out of business. This is a fundamental lack of understanding business concepts and the 21 century information economy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not Free- You just Don't understand business principles

There is a whole lot wrong here, it’s pretty hard to know where to start.

Newspapers have never been entirely free. They are advertising and subscriber supported. The subscription price is often there to help cover the costs of distribution, not of producing. That doesn’t change. Having a monthly subscription for home delivery or asking for a month online subscription really isn’t very different. It helps to pay for the distribution.

As for Google and “ad supported”, well, let’s just say that there is more here than meets the eye. They have created an amazing system for jacking ad rates, encouraging click arbitrage and “up selling” generic clicks into high targeted markets, taking 50% of the money at every step. They generate an incredible amount of money, but also generate significant costs to their end users. Let’s just say there is a fair bit of evil involved in how they make their money.

What the newpaper needs to do is find better ways to connect with it’s user base and sell them value added content.

They have already done that. The NYT has a huge subscriber base, and a huge readership. They are incredibly popular and enjoyed. Not by everyone, but they have a huge audience. Why should they change just to make it easier for a freetard to enjoy their paper for nothing?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


Um, I wasn’t pointing you to a comment, I was pointing you to that post, which is written by me.

I didn’t feel like repeating my entire explanation of why I feel that the Times paywall plan is problematic, so I linked to somewhere that I had written it out more thoroughly.

And yes, it’s my opinion – my opinion as someone who has worked in multiple aspects of the newspaper industry, at local and national publications, for several years now, in close touch with advertising sales teams, production teams, editorial teams and more. I’m not saying I’m incontrovertibly correct but I actually do have some insight into this stuff.

If you want to have a discussion, go read it and and try actually responding to my reasoning instead of being dismissive of someone who probably knows a lot more about the news industry than you do.

So would you care to try again?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Not Free- You just Don't understand business principles

The subscription price is often there to help cover the costs of distribution, not of producing

The cost of distribution? You mean the cost that drops to essentially zero thanks to online news?

Yeah, not a great argument for paywalls…

And if you look into the economics, you will find that subscription/newsstand prices have never been more than a small loss-leader for newspapers. This is true going as far back as the nineteenth century – and has always been recognized by publishers.

Hyman Rosen (profile) says:

Benefits for paying customers

Why is rewarding print subscribers backwards? You’re always saying that people should be offered a reason to buy. How is it wrong to give benefits to people who have accepted the reason and are already buying? I’m a weekend subscriber to the Times, and my reason to buy is that I’m a Jewish Sabbath observer who doesn’t use electronic devices on Saturday but loves reading the paper in bed in the morning.

AnonX says:

Not Free- You just Don't understand business principles

Pointing to the Google mission statement is not an assessment or an analysis of the Google business practice. Business is amoral. There is no good or evil- only profit and no profit. If Adsense was so horrible to be unprofitable for the end users or advertisers, it wouldn’t be used and the service would cease to exist in the marketplace. The mission statement of “Do no evil” has no bearing on the profitability for anyone. Simply if the relationship did not work and was completely unprofitable for either side, it generally would not exist.

Also, nothing is free since there is forced advertsing surrounding every article. If they get rid of the advertsing, that could work as an incentive to pay for the content as it would add value to the content. There is a potential market for services that respect their readership and don’t double-dip on the advertsing and the delivery charges. Doing one or the other has a market, but doing both is business suicide in this era of ubquitous information.

m3mnoch (profile) says:


“retarded is assuming that everything is free”

nobody here disagrees with that.

let me try to point out what you’re missing. first, you can at least agree with the truism that “time is money”, yes? if you don’t believe that, then you’ve got a lot more education to find than i can give.

that being said, there are two finite things in this world — real estate and time available. there will never be more square footage on the planet and there will never be more time in the day. countries can print more money. people can come up with more ideas. but, land and time are fixed. period. that’s one of the reasons for “time is money.”

now, stay with me here…

think about it. even if everything was “free” by being ad-driven, there is only so much attention (a single person’s application of time) that can be spent with an ad, right?

so, imagine option 1: you have paid-for content — a subscription model even. unfortunately, there are tons and tons of “free” alternatives out there that are ad supported. but your content isn’t really that much better because of the low barriers to entry. and it’s certainly not better and different enough to warrant a subscription and the consumer friction that causes. nobody subscribes. you go out of business.

now, imagine option 2: you have free content that gets paid for by ads, but nobody has the time to view your content because they’re engaged with other content and their ads. movies, games, social networking, whatever. because, that’s where their friends are linking them to and the network effect gives them the eyeballs. or because their content is better. or because of any of hundreds of reasons due to the crazy-low switching cost of the web. your visitor numbers fall. your advertisers stop advertising. you go out of business.

what’s even worse than that?

combining the two: you have a paywall for your “good” content and everyone can get some of your “not-as-good” content for free by way of advertising revenue. so, for the half that’s paid, see option 1 — people can still get equivalent content without a subscription. for the unpaid half, see option 2 — but worse because it’s not your best content and it usually the “best” content that benefits from switching costs and network effects. and, for a multiplicitive effect, see the problems of ignoring the rule of “do one thing and do it well.”

even worse, imagine this: you have free content that gets paid for by ads, but nobody has the time to view your content because they’re engaged with other, better content and their ads. your advertisers stop advertising. you go out of business.

how much money do you make when everyone is walking right by your shop because all of a sudden, there are 50,000 shops that sell basically the same thing as you and they’re all within an a single, simple step?

now what do you do?

welcome to what’s called “real competition” rather than serendipity enabled by the false constraints of physical location and middlemen. welcome to a world where there’s a glut of content vying for our attention. welcome to the attention economy.

everything is most certainly NOT free. the currency is just different than what you’re used to. and getting people to even care enough to spend that new currency is the hard part.

because people who won’t even bother to give you any of their attention most certainly won’t give you any of their dollars.


Anon says:


I don’t think I agree with your vision of “progress.” Savvy business people will find a way to support content and the rest of it will go away… And I’m okay with that. OMG, all the News/TV/Music/Movies I currently watch doesn’t exist anymore! Oh well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be and I’ll find something else to do with my “freetard” time. The notion that I must consume is ridiculous.

AnonX says:

Attention Economies and the actual product

Agreed, but the other thing that is not being discussed by the – you must pay for breathing crowd- is that these commenters are not considering what really is the product being sold.

Sometimes it is not the article that makes any money. Most articles are treated as a loss leader for alternative profitable activities. Some authors and writers make money through their speaking engagements or alternative means. Promoting themselves and their name is sometimes more important and profitable in the long run than the immediate return on the written article. Many financial consultants and others will offer content to assist in selling other more profitable products and services. Sometimes free content is promotional conent for more lucritive opportunities which are the actual product. Sometimes the product is the author him/herself.

Charging for the right of access limits a news agency to individuals that are seeking content for profit opportunities. Those who use content for selling and creating alterative opportunities will never write for the NYT because of the limited audience. This will potentially limit NYT’s talent pool for talented writers and content producers. The long term effect is serious damage to the content product over time. If you are a fan of the NYT, you should be worried….

Anonymous Coward says:


let’s say that the only thing retarded is assuming that everything is free.

Who is assuming this, you? Then yes, I agree, it and you are retarded. Nothing is free. I have not said nor will I ever say that news should be “free.” However, there is this magical thing called an advertisement which a newspaper can use to make money.

The advertising model online isn’t the same slam dunk it is in print.

Ah, so you’ve heard of advertising; I guess I’ll just ignore everything you wrote before this sentence. Advertising in print was not and is not a “slam dunk.” One of the unfortunate side effects of technology was that we finally discovered a way to measure advertising effectiveness … and guess what, ads are not as effective as many people thought.

Newspapers were lucky because they were able to charge an enormous markup on a low value product, advertising. Fortunately, the same technology that has shown the low value of their product has also given them an opportunity – significantly reduced cost. If a news organization can’t figure out how to leverage the new technology to become profitable THEY WILL FAIL, and whats more, they will DESERVE to fail.

There are far to many “newspapers” in print today as it is. Many of them are simply content aggregators, printing AP and Reuters stories with maybe 1 or 2 local pieces thrown in. Sadly, those types of news organizations will be forced to consolidate, reduce cost, or die. Even more sadly, people like you don’t realize that this is called progress and is the inevitable consequence of human advancement. Don’t worry, journalists will find new things to do, possibly even better more exciting things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Benefits for paying customers

The point is that the NYT should be moving away from a print edition as much as possible. Relatively soon, (perhaps within my lifetime) printed paper will be considered as outmoded and out of date as observing the Sabbath by not using electronic devices. (Aside: I’m not trying to pick on Jewish people specifically, just a lot of religious tradition is out of date BS in my opinion.)

By giving extra benefits to people buying the printed version of the paper, they are essentially encouraging more people to subscribe to the printed version. I think Mike believes, and I agree, that increasing your print subscribers may provide some lovely short term growth but will ultimately hinder their efforts to reduce production and distribution cost. Also, it means that the organization will be focused on a highly traditional business model (where they’re comfortable, but which is in decline) instead of focusing on a more modern / current approach (where they’re uncomfortable, but which has huge growth potential).

Last but not least, even if a pay-wall was going to be successful, something I highly doubt, it would be foolish to push more people into buying a product you sell which is virtually identical to another product you sell but with a higher cost (or lower margin). Even if the online edition is priced at 1/3rd the print edition, I’m guessing that the online edition will be more profitable.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Benefits for paying customers

Indeed. The goal of pro-paywall folk at newspapers is usually not improving their online product so that people will want to pay for it. Nine times out of ten, their strategy is to basically make their online product less appealing to drive readers back to the print product.

Any business strategy that starts with “how do we make our customers like this product less” is a bad one.

Eugene (profile) says:


The only reason advertising is not the same slam dunk it is in print is because advertisers have no way of getting any useful information about user response metrics regarding their ads, aside from subscription numbers. This gives magazine publishers power. On the web, advertisers get a veritable bounty of data to poke through and make judgments on. This gives *them* power.

With the power balance out of whack, it’s actually a miracle that anyone makes money off of ads at all…and yet they still do somehow. Probably because the webmasters’ power is transferred to the development community as a whole, but this is still weaker than having a nice, imbalanced direct relationship.

If you want to know what’s hurting the web, it’s not the “people who want things for free” (a category that either effectively doesn’t exist, or comprises everyone in the world), it’s the easy availability of overly nuanced metrics. TV has the right idea – the ratings system is built off fuzzy math with vague statistics based off a pool of 1% of the U.S. population, which isn’t even fairly distributed across the country. It’s brilliant.

Eugene (profile) says:

Not Free- You just Don't understand business principles

Right. The subscription payment has traditionally only meant to be a way to create exclusivity, for the purpose of implying respectability. A “this news is more legitimate because the unwashed masses don’t have their grubby hands on it” sort of thing. Any costs actually covered by the subscription price are purely a nice side effect.

Exclusivity and respect are defined differently on the web. In fact, it’s almost the *reverse* on the web, since Paywalls are commonly associated with sleazy porn sites. Food for thought.

Bob (profile) says:

Benefits for paying customers

Ah Mr. Rosen– That’s because the TD crowd doesn’t really believe in giving someone a “reason to buy”. If so, they would embrace DRM because it’s just another form of giving someone a reason to buy. The phrase is pretty much meaningless here. For instance, you might assume that the NYT is giving their readership a reason to buy by checking the facts and trying hard to write a good story. Bah! The first rule around here is that you must allow all copying because this site is just an astroturfing site sponsored by Google and other companies that don’t want to pay writers or artists. Everything else is just squid ink meant to muddy the waters and confuse everyone.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Benefits for paying customers

You get the Clueless Award, with a special citation for Completely Missing The Point.

Pro tip 1: giving a reason to buy is not the same thing as enforcing a price
Pro tip 2: Quality reporting makes the news valuable – but value does not always equal “reason to buy” – namely, it does not do so when there are countless free alternatives only a click away

Addendum: nobody is against paying writers and artists, except maybe the newspapers themselves, many of which are cutting back their staff and reducing their freelance rates while relying more on wire copy. It’s a quick cash-grab strategy that is likely to cripple them in the long run by eliminating their only advantage: talent. If it were up to me, they would be cutting back print operations and pouring MORE money into writers and editors and photographers in order to produce more competitive content.

But hey, why understand the nuances, right? Reality be damned!

Gwiz (profile) says:

Benefits for paying customers

That’s because the TD crowd doesn’t really believe in giving someone a “reason to buy”. If so, they would embrace DRM because it’s just another form of giving someone a reason to buy.


Please explain your logic here…how is adding something that restricts how or when or where I use it giving me a reason to buy?

In my world that’s a reason not to buy.

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