NYT Announces Flat Fee for Heavy Users

More clues about The New York Times' much-debated paywall

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The New York Times announced in January that the following year it would construct pay wall through which regular readers would be charged for access to the newspaper’s website. Ever since, business and media analysts as well as Times junkies have speculated what the coming payment system will look like and debated whether or not the change should even be made.

At the UBS Global Media Conference earlier this week, New York Times executives uncovered a few more details about their new online business model. Heavy readers, those who access more than 20 pages per month on the New York Times website will be charged an unspecified flat fee for unlimited content. "Visitors who come to the NYTimes.com through social-media sites would not be counted by the meter. That's designed to preserve its audience reach and the ad dollars that follow it," reports David Kaplan at Paid Content. "As for those who find articles on the site through search, it wasn’t clear if that would be limited by the paywall, but that is considered likely."

Joe Pompeo at the Yahoo News blog The Cutline also reported from the conference a statement made by Times Digital Chief Martin Nisenholtz regarding an agreement with Google to limit the number of articles that can be accessed for free by using the search engine. As more information continues to circulate so, too, do the many opinions on the matter.

  • Allow People to Search for Content Reueters blogger Felix Salmon has been skeptical of the pay wall system ever since the Times announced its plan back in January. Upon hearing the news that NYT is working with Google to prevent nonsubscribers from circumventing the paywall, Salmon asks
Why would Nisenholtz do this? Why won't he just satisfy himself with raising revenue from loyal readers, rather than trying to prevent people from reading lots of stories? It should be flattering that people want to read NYT content so badly that they will take the long way around the paywall. Instead, Nisenholtz seems to find it downright threatening.
  • Pay $19.99 a Month? Yeah Right  At the conference, New York Times Newspaper President Scott Heeken-Canedy hinted that the $19.99 fee for a Times subscription on Kindle :might be indicative of where pricing for full Web access will end up," reports Poynter's Rick Edmonds. To this projection, Silicon Alley Insider retorted, "sorry, but that’s way too high."
  • Not a Disaster In an interview with Business Insider, New York Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin explains why he doesn't think the coming paywall will be a disaster. He explains that asking frequent readers to pay for content isn’t exactly a new concept. "When you go to the newsstand, you like to flip through the magazine or the newspaper or whatever it is first before you buy it. and i think that's, in large part, how we’re approaching it," he says.

  • This Could Be Great for Business After looking examining the New York Times' recent financial losses and gains, Silicon Alley Insider blogger Henry Blodget concludes that the paywall is an excellent business strategy. He suggests critics consider that
First, the NYT would be dumb not to try a paywall. If it fails, the company can just remove it--and be no worse off than it is today ... Second, and more important, the paywall will likely extend the life of the print business ... The NYT is planning to introduce a smarter version of the paywall than Rupert Murdoch's papers have ... [and] the NYT's paywall will preserve most of the site's advertising revenue while also adding incremental super-high-margin subscription revenue.
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