We're still surprised that the folks at the NY Times think that a paywall is a smart idea -- especially since they already tried the idea and it failed pretty miserably. But, lately, it seems like they're completely making stuff up to make themselves
believe it's a good idea. At the company's annual meeting, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. tried to convince everyone (including himself, we're guessing) that by putting up a paywall, you increase the emotional connection readers have with the site
-- to which Jeff Jarvis noted, that "emotional connection" is probably anger
At the core of our thinking is the necessity of increasing engagement. This is about having our users generally spend more of their valuable time with us, either on our site or on other sites that are integrating our content. It is about enhancing the emotional connection that our users have with us.
We start off with the premise that the key to increasing engagement is about compelling storytelling. This transcends technology --- it is not about the printing press, or the server, or the cave drawing, for that matter. It is about an essential human connection, and we are working hard to explore this notion and enhance our relationship with our audiences worldwide.
The real issue is that Sulzberger seems to have the relationship backwards. Charging doesn't create an emotional relationship. What we've been pointing out over and over again is that you have to build the relationship first
, and then on top of that you can charge for providing scarce value
. The obvious response, of course, is that many people already do have an emotional connection with the NY Times, but you don't increase
that by charging for the content that helped build that connection. That weakens the connection. The connection is what makes people willing to buy. Buying doesn't build a stronger connection by itself.