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 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, 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.


  1. says

    A while back, I was so confused when someone emailed me a WSJ article and I couldn’t read the entire thing. I knew the sender didn’t have a subscription so I was completely dumbfounded. (thus discarding the article) This was before I knew what a Paywall was..

    I consider myself tech savvy and well-versed in online happenings, but if this strategy confused me, how many casual readers are going to be lost just because they don’t get what NYT is trying to accomplish?

    It seems this strategy also punishes potential readers who don’t understand why some can read it and others can’t… #mytwocents

  2. says

    It’s not clear to me at this point how this will affect people who already pay part of the fee. I, for example, pay something like $30/year for access to the crossword. I have for years. Is that enough to give me access to everything?

    But I disagree with your point about the paywall punishing “the most loyal” readers of the Times. The most loyal readers subscribe to the dead tree edition, and those people automatically get full access to online content.

  3. says

    I agree that few people are going to buy the online only subscriptions and few people are going to hit the paywall. I checked my own usage and found that I only hit 18 in the last month. (A lot lower than I expected!)

    The real point of this is to protect print subscriptions, in two ways:
    1) It makes people who already pay for print feel better about paying for it, because the Times is now making an effort to protect its content. They can say with a semi-straight face that they charge for content online.

    2) For those who choose to pay, the pricing is designed to encourage people to subscribe to the print edition. The Sunday print edition includes “All Access” and costs $15/4 weeks. The online only “All Access” costs $35/4 weeks. You’re paying $20 NOT to get the paper delivered to you. It’ll be interesting to see how heavily they push this option in the paywall screen.

    More thoughts here:

  4. Chris G says

    I’m still waiting for micropayments. I’d be happy to pay x cents per article if it were a one-click operation. Whatever happened to this concept?

  5. says

    I have read newspapers religiously, every day, since I was five years old. There’s no way I am going to waste time scheming how to get this for free. If I am standing in line someplace with my tiny little Blackberry, I will open the NYT mobile edition and work on my reading. The quality of their articles is worth $0.50 per day. That’s 1/4 of a large decaf at Starbucks.

  6. Chris G says

    I can see this being acceptable for people who rely on the NYT, and I hope there are enough of them out there to make this a success. I, however, read NYT articles fairly rarely, maybe once a week. I would rather pay my way than ride the 20 free article limit. That’s why I want micropayments – to help make this thing work and do my share, without signing up for the whole thing. I’m trying to pay more not less!

  7. ilovedessert says

    Good day,

    My friends and I are looking at it in a different way. 30 of us will each use our 20 articles per month in one day, each one of us will cut and paste articles that interest ourselves and then send them to each other….that is 600 articles being Emailed across the month…that is more than most people would even read at the NYT site.

    In addition, the NYT should have asked the Dept of Justice for a waive and started talks with other newspaper sites….I typically go to 25 to 30 news sites a day…this would have been far more tolerable if we paid $15 a month to visit 25 news sites…but the NYT got greedy…for all of the NY times whining about losing money due to the internet…they did manage to give the publish in chief a much large bonus and raise than the year before…

    After not paying for news for over a decade and a half..they aren’t going to get many paying customers…the times has over 20 million individual online readers a month…the Times of London lost 90% of it’s reader, NY’s Long Island newspaper Newsday only got less than 300 people to sign up for their pay wall…the Wall St Jour. has slightly over 1 million paying members….due to the small number of readers in each case of a pay wall…the NYT hopes that people will still visit the site, thru “social networking sites” for free as well as thru various search engines.

    The NYT had a pay wall for it’s editorial and columnist section years ago…the experiment failed for a number of reasons:
    1. the NYT online site lost many readers.
    2. apparently the columnist must get some type of “fee” for the number of hits per month..the hits to the columns dropped so much that the columnist complained very loudly.
    3. I know at least 5 or 6 people that joined that old pay wall and then cut and paste EVERY column and editorial and emailed them to ever they knew would like to read them & days a week….I was on at least 12 email lists of friends emailing columns all over the Internet.
    4. AFTER SLIGHTLY MORE THAN 1 YEAR THE TIMES DROPPED THE PAY WALL…I am sure most of the readers will NOT be willing to pay…the NYT website like all news web sites and most advertising based websites, will have trouble keeping their advertisers happy….after all they are charged a sliding scale by the NYT where the NYT guarantees a minimum number of hits per month!

    Take care,