The Emperor's New Paywall

from the that's-not-a-paywall dept

We’ve already covered just how easy it is to get around the NY Times’ $40 million paywall. NYT management is clearly lying when it claims that most people won’t bypass the wall, when it’s so incredibly easy to bypass… even by accident. With the DailyCaller listing out five more ways to bypass the paywall (not even counting things like the bookmarklet or turning off javascript) such as “removing ‘?gwh=numbers’ from an article’s URL,” it’s finally occurred to me:

This is the Emperor’s New Paywall.

The NY Times isn’t robed in a paywall at all. It’s naked and simply wants people to believe it has a paywall, in the hope that some people will pay and that the masses won’t call them on it. Except unlike the Emperor in the fairy tale, you have to believe that the NYT management must recognize this, and is simply playing stupid in its interactions talking about this. It really seems to think that by playing stupid and pretending it really has a paywall, which is truly just a voluntary donation program, it will make people more likely to pay. And I’m sure some people will pay, but I can’t believe the numbers will be enough to move the needle. The thing that I still can’t understand is how it could spend all this time and money preparing for this and not add a single bit of additional value in this scheme. You would think that during those 14 months someone might have come up with a plan to add more value that was worth paying for, but it seems that they didn’t even consider that as a worthwhile option.

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Comments on “The Emperor's New Paywall”

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fogbugzd (profile) says:

No value added

The telling thing to me is that with all of that investment they have not added anything new that is of value to the subscriber.

Microsoft did that and called it Windows Vista. Everything they added was something that either MS itself wanted or one of its business parters wanted. They made it prettier, but otherwise added nothing of value to customers. When you think you have a monopoly or guaranteed audience you lose focus on producing things that your customers want. Instead you just think up ways to shoot yourself in the foot.

The problem that the NYT only thinks it has a guaranteed market.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hmm

See, after reading this, I thought of 2 things…

1. this is an attempt at ‘pay what you want’…meaning it’s putting a way to pay, but not specifcially blocking the easy ways to get around it. Instead of coming out and SAYING it’s pay what you want….(ish)…..abd thus looking like they are giving up on the old draconic business models.

2. They are gathering a list of people that get around the paywall to do some massive lump lawsuit for stealing content. At very least, they are gathering stats for numbers for a study to justify why copyright laws need to be more draconic.

This scheme works similar to spam. The only reason spam still exists is because it catches enough numbnuts to make it a profitable business.

Dave says:

40 Mill!

Oh Man,
I knew the paywall was misguided, but they spent that much on it? OMG. I’m a web developer, and I could have set up something that doesn’t work for MUCH less than that!

They are truly clueless. I’m trying to imagine how mental the boardroom meetings must be.

“hey, my statistics [that I pulled out of some bodypart] tell me that 97% of people won’t know how to get around our paywall”.

“great, so that’s 5 million bucks per week, and our paper is rescued!”.

“and we have nobody on staff who really understands the web, but this guy I just paid 3 million to said that everything’s going to be fine”

“uh, yeah, but the geezers that don’t understand technology or how to get around the paywall might also just want to keep the actual physical paper and not pay for this”.

“we don’t like that kind of negativity in our company, Bob”

Joe (profile) says:

Re: 40 Mill!

“I knew the paywall was misguided, but they spent that much on it? OMG. I’m a web developer, and I could have set up something that doesn’t work for MUCH less than that!”

Hell, I could set up something that is easier to get around and cost MORE. If they’re willing to pay $40 million for what they got, I’m sure I could sell them a paywall (for about $50 million or so) that turns itself off.

chris (profile) says:

Re: 40 Mill!

but they spent that much on it?

they said they spent that much on it.

maybe they spent $100 to get some intern to write it, stuck $40 mil into the offshore accounts of the senior management and are waiting for the paper to go down in flames so they can retire in style. all the while they will be blaming “teh haxorz” for destroying an american institution.

Markus Hopkins (profile) says:

Re: Added Value

I marked your comment funny, because other publications that are not putting up paywalls do hold a candle to the NY Times, and because “added value” is value that entices people to pay for something that used to be free. The NY Times has done nothing to their offering besides adding a paywall. Hence, no added value to entice us to pay for what we could (and still can) get for free. You either knew that and were making a joke, or else the joke is on you and the NY Times.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: Added Value

>>No added value? Who are you kidding. Take a look and most of the online newspapers in the country and then compare them to the NYT. They don’t hold a candle to it.

Correct. No ADDED value. It is already a great paper. But I haven’t seen anything that says a penny of the $40 million is going to do anything that makes it better. In a competitive market like news, if you are not getting better you are getting worse.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Added Value


You use this word . . . I do not think it means what you think it means . . .

Let’s say you have a pile of gold. That’s pretty valuable, right? Now let’s say you pay $40 million to pour raw sewage all over that gold. When someone else points out that this seems like a colossal waste of cash without adding anything of value to your pile, do you respond with “No added value?? It’s gold!”

fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: Re:

>>I’ve been reading the stories here about the paywall, so I decided to go see it myself. Apparently I have accidentally messed something up and cannot get to the paywall no matter how many stories I click on.

Right now the paywall is only active in Canada. If you want to check it out you can bounce your request off a Canadian proxy server.

David Sanger (profile) says:

It's a question of price

I read the NY Times quite often and enjoy it as one of my news sources along with BBC Reuters the Washington Post and (recently) Al Jazeera, and sohave no problem paying a small amount for doing so with ease.

$35 a month is way way too high in my opinion. When I found out you could get full digital subscription by subscribing the Weekend Book Review for $1.75 a week I signed up. That’s about $7.50 a month, which is more reasonable (the right price, I’d say, would be $4.99 a month)

They since seem to have disabled the link, but you might still be able to get a subscription.

As for hacks, the easiest way of all I found was to go to and then instead of clicking on links, do a right-click-copy-link-open-new-window-paste. No ?args. No paywall.

Even so that’s a pain and I chose the $7.50 a month instead.

I donate $1 + a month to you, Mike, and they write many more stories than you do.

Making it a highly porous barrier may turn out to be a fair compromise. Traffic will tell.

Anonymous Coward says:

One item related to the NYT paywall stories that people seem to be missing completely… the un-freakn-believably-godlike marketing ability of the people who sold this.

The marketing/sales team behind the “sure we can make a kick arse paywall for you” are obviously some of the best con artists on the planet.

I challenge anyone to get a $40 million deal approved and passed by a major company for “months of research, innovation, and development” that results in an inanely simple java script.

This paywall stupidity is nothing save a resounding testament to the power and influence of the marketing team behind it. I’d hire the entire team in a heart beat and begin making massive capital gains for essentially no work, GENIUS!!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

And then a little boy asked “Why is that man wearing no clothes?”

His mother quickly shushed him, but it was too late. Everyone around the boy recognized that the boy was a dishonest fool, and he was shunned and ostracised, because everyone realises that he was a freetard, wanting to live in a wild west where he could freely steal cars and rape people, because everyone knows that copyright protection for over a century is the first, last, and only defense agaisnt a Hobbesian state of nature.

Anonymous Coward says:

I cant wait for some more user backlash to appear on this. If I was tricked into paying for something that is free to anyone clever enough to get around this paywall i’d be pretty pissed off and i’d sure be demanding my money back. You cant expect to treat each customer differently and not have some of them feel like theyre getting screwed

David (profile) says:

Weird pricing structure

Comment #24 talks about the Book Review, which is even better than what I discovered – at least, for those willing to pay the NYT something…

The basic online sub (no print) is $3.75/week. Their weekday print sub is $3.70/week, which includes full online access (worth more than the basic online access). And, their Sunday print sub is $3.75/week, which also includes online.

I’ve asked the NYT why this is, so if they respond, I will update y’all.

(And, yes – the price is way too high, even if the NYT’s shit don’t stink.)

– D

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