On NYT Paywall, Citigroup says 'Good Buy'; Techdirt says 'Hello!?!'
from the say-what-now? dept
We’ve been having some fun mocking the NY Times paywall, which makes no sense to us at all. While we’re sure some people will subscribe, the overall math is hard to make work, especially considering anyone who wants to can easily get around the paywall. In fact, the way the NY Times set up the paywall, it actually takes away significant value from the NY Times itself. Instead, it drives that traffic to other sites that link in to NYT stories, because readers don’t use up “free clicks” if they come in via other sites.
In the meantime, we’ve got plenty of stories of other paywalls out there that suggest that people aren’t particularly eager to sign up for paywalls. Some will. Perhaps a fair number will. The NY Times has the kind of brand that will certainly lead a bunch of people to just subscribe, perhaps without realizing they really don’t need to do so.
However, consider ourselves confused and scratching our heads to hear that an analyst at Citigroup, Leo Kulp, is making the rather shocking prediction that “Revenue generated by an annual digital subscription will likely dwarf the advertising revenues generated by even heavy users.” Say what? The only way I can see this happening is if the NY Times has the world’s worst online ad sales force, which I doubt. And, of course, we already have some data on a NY Times subscription plan, back from the last time they tried a paywall. It generated some money — about $10 million per year. Not chump change, but hardly a huge number for a publication like the NY Times, which was why they did away with it. They knew that expanding ad revenue was a much better plan.
So can anyone explain the math by which the NY Times’ digital subscription revenue will “dwarf” ad revenue? I’ve been plugging numbers into spreadsheets, and unless the online ad market totally collapses, I just can’t see the math making any sense.