Direct Line Blog

'NY Times' paywall has deliberate holes

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The New York Times has instituted a paywall for its digital content, set to go into effect March 28. Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. announced the paywall structure March 17.

Print subscribers can register for unrestricted access across online as well as smartphone and tablet applications. Non-subscribers will be limited to 20 articles each month on nytimes.com before being asked to become a digital subscriber. Smartphone or tablet users who wish to read beyond an app's Top News section will need to subscribe.

Digital subscriptions are available on three levels, for $15, $20 or $35 a month, with varying degrees of digital access.

The Times apparently sees social media as a valuable traffic driver, as site visitors who land on an article via links on Facebook or Twitter will not have those article views counted against their monthly limit.

Similarly, visitors from search engines or any other referring site can view content without restriction, save for a five-article-per-day limit imposed on visitors referred to The Times' site from Google.

It doesn't sound too difficult to bypass this paywall, but after a year or research, I can only assume The Times is well aware of this fact. Given that homepage browsing is free all month, it's not hard to paste a headline from the homepage into Bing or Yahoo and read the article that way. I'm not sure if that's cheating or opportunistic, but either way, the goal here seems not to be to driving revenue in the immediate sense, but rather getting readers used to the idea of having to pay for content, with the pay model gradually tightening over time.

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