All The New York Times Paywall That’s Fit For No One To Use

So the New York Times is finally getting a paywall. I’ve got no problem with paywalls. I’ve run my own membership based services for almost 15 years. My issue is with paywalls that make little sense.

How’s the NYT paywall going to impact me? Apparently, not at all. That’s because I read most New York Times stories by either:

  • Finding them via Google News
  • Finding them via social media, such as Twitter

All New York Times stories you find through Google News will remain free, though Google’s First Click Free program does let the NYT and any publisher limit you to five stories per day, per visit from Google.

If you really read that many NYT stories via Google each day, then you probably know that you can clear your cookies or use another browser to get around this. But really, are most people from Google going to the New York Times more than five times per day?

There’s no limit whatsoever for those who come via Twitter or Facebook. None. In fact, none of those visits will count against your free 20 visits that everyone gets. Says the New York Times:

Not all visits to NYTimes.com will count toward the 20-article limit. In an effort to avoid deterring as many as possible of the Web site’s more than 30 million monthly readers, The Times will allow access to people who arrive at its Web site through search engines like Google and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. There will, however, be a five-article limit a day for people who visit the site from Google.

To spell it out more, want to read an article on the New York Times, if you HAVE gone over your free 20? Copy the link, tweet it to yourself, click on the tweeted link. Enjoy. Rinse and repeat, at required.

I struggle to understand who exactly among the “freeloaders” out there, as viewers to newspaper web sites are sometimes considered, just because viewing ads isn’t enough, are going to convert to this new paywall scheme.

I’d assume there are some people who go to the NYT site each day, as their starting point, and consume so many articles that they’d like to read with unfettered access. But then I’m supposed to believe that these hyper-internet based readers are also apparently ignorant of using Google and social media, right?

These are people who only know how to get online, type into www.nytimes.com, and when the paywall screen goes up, they’ll decide gulp — I need to pay?

Maybe. And if so, the paywall’s sad on two accounts. First, it rewards casual readers of the New York Times and punishes the most loyal. It also assumes that the most loyal user are also the most un-web savvy.

In the end, it seems like you want a paywall that gives your most loyal users something you don’t give the drive-by readers. I suppose convenience is part of that, but right now, as announced, the paywall is so riddled with holes that drive-bys won’t be inconvenienced at all.