One of the oddities in the NY Times introducing its recent emperor's new paywall
is the fact that the NYT already played this game and failed
a few years ago. Back in 2006, over a year before the NYT finally realized this was a dumb idea, we had pointed out that it appeared its subscriber numbers had totally plateaued
, foreshadowing the end of the paywall. I was reminded of that after some were saying that the NYT's recent announcement of 100,000 subscribers
to its (still discounted) paywall shows that it's on a path to success.
With that in mind, it's fascinating to see Joshua Benton, over at the Nieman Lab, compare the results of the TimesSelect paywall with this new paywall
, and suggest that the initial results aren't really that impressive in that they track the results from last time. After scouring reports to find out how many people signed up for TimesSelect, he put together this chart that shows the clear plateau:
So it looks like the last time around, they quickly jumped out to about 100,000 subscribers... and then things slowed down and they had to slog it out for new subscribers. This time around the paywall situation is definitely different. This paywall covers the entire NY Times, but is much more leaky. So you have one force pushing more people to subscribe... and another that diminishes the reasons to subscribe. But the key point remains. The success (or failure) is going to be determined by how many people the paper can convince to keep signing up... and I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the NY Times is going to find it hard to grow this part of their business in any significant way over time.