Who Actually Felt 'Guilty' That They Read The NYTimes Online For Free?

from the living-in-delusion-land dept

The latest news on the NY Times' bizarrely uncompelling paywall experiment is that the people at the NY Times appear to be delusional about it. Peter Kafka has an interview with NYT digital boss Martin Niesenholtz in which he defends the paywall with some strange reasoning... including claiming that people feel guilty reading the NY Times for free:
I think the majority of people are honest and care about great journalism and the New York Times. When you look at the research that we've done, tons of people actually say, "Jeez, we've felt sort of guilty getting this for free all these years. We actually want to step up and pay, because we know we're supporting a valuable institution."
A few thoughts on this: first, it's a load of crap. I can't see that passing the laugh test. If they have research that says that, I'm willing to bet the research methodology was done poorly. At best, perhaps they asked the question in a way that made people embarrassed so they felt compelled to answer that way. News is free online. I've never heard anyone feeling "guilty" about not paying for news that was offered up for free on purpose. I mean, it makes you wonder, does anyone feel guilty for paying the subscription fees for a paper copy of the NY Times? After all, the subscription price doesn't even cover the printing and distribution costs, so if people feel guilty for not paying for the reporting, then they ought to feel guilty for paying the paper subscription price. But that's crazy.

More importantly, though, if they really believed that people felt guilty about it, they would just offer them up a way to pay what they wanted, voluntarily. Setting up a paywall with specific (and, at times, nonsensical) rules makes very little sense if you believe the key reason why people will pay is guilt. If the reason to pay is guilt, then just make it easy for people to do a pay what you want offering. But the Times didn't do that because they know, deep down inside, that very few people "feel guilty" for reading the NY Times without paying for it. Thus, they know that just asking people to pay won't work.

So why not just be upfront about why they're putting up the paywall? My guess is that the folks putting this together know deep down inside that this is a disaster in the making. It's why there's no value proposition being added here. All you get is a negative value proposition ("we won't block you at some point"). I doubt that the paywall will be a "disaster," just because the NYT's has a big enough core and loyal audience to get some to pay. I just can't figure out any way that it'll actually serve to really make the company that much money.

Filed Under: buisness models, martin niesenholtz, ny times, paywall
Companies: ny times


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2011 @ 7:50am

    Re: Newspapers...

    It has to be a generational thing. There really can't be any other explanation as to why they completely fail to understand what's going on here. When I first heard their plan for different pricing on different platforms I literally LOLed (they don't know what that means).

    I think they're freaking out because they don't understand how the delivery has changed. They still think they're selling digital versions of the paper they peddle on the streets. They're worrying how to support the Style section and the World News section and so on when they should be worrying about how to get people to read their paper when Japan gets hit with a tsunami.

    The information age has broken the advertising model because now advertisers can see exactly how many people view a story. It puts them in a better position to dictate terms, so naturally they're going to look to the readers to cough up more cash.

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