Apple iPad users might have been shocked to discover this weekend that navigating to the Post's pages from Safari is no longer allowed
As newspapers and other forms of media continue to struggle with rising printing costs and declining advertising revenues, we've seen a number of different solutions tested, most of them taking the form of digital paywalls that, like traditional subscriptions, require readers to pay for access to content. Some will probably fail and some may succeed, but if the New York TImes' multi-million dollar paywall has taught us anything it's that you need to be very careful how you go about erecting these things.
The Times' paywall, which was only recently put up after the possibility of its construction had been talked about for years, is so full of intentional holes that it operates more like the PBS fundraising model, which is to nudge readers toward giving rather than stealing. It's quiet, operating in the background and, every once in a while, letting you know that you've already read X number of articles for free this month. Don't you think it's time to give a little? The new paywall blocking access to the New York Post is the opposite: It's a digital assault that risks offending readers and turning them to alternative news sources for good.
The New York Post iPad app, which allows you to access everything the paper is publishing from your Apple tablet, costs $6.99/month or $74.99/year. That's less than you'll pay for a print subscription ($14/month or $182/year) but, unlike the New York Times, digital access isn't included with your more traditional purchase; you have to buy that separately, essentially paying twice for much of the content being produced. It's no wonder, then, that many readers have been using the Safari browser on the iPad to navigate to the Post's website instead of purchasing the app directly.
On Saturday, the Post went ahead and put up a paywall, essentially, as Dave Winer put it in his Scripting News story, breaking the Web. Now, any potential visitors who navigate to the paper's website using Safari will run into a poorly conceived wall. You can't even see the newspaper's front page or a list of story headlines before being presented with a full-page message alerting you that "editorial content is now only accessible on the iPad through the New York Post App." Traffic coming through the Post's own Facebook page is also being rerouted, according to Staci Kramer at PaidContent. "Click on a link from within Safari and you end up at the redirect page," she wrote.
Apple iPad users who refuse to pay for access to the website can get around the paywall by using another browser, like Opera Mini or Skyfire. But the vast majority of iPad users are browsing the Web from Safari and will be turned away immediately. There's no way this is going to drive sales. Keep in mind that most tablet users are only accessing the Post for a short period of time: They're commuting and want a quick fix or waiting for a meeting to start and away from their primary computers. It's not worth going to the App Store, paying and waiting to download the app when I can just get my Page Six-style stories elsewhere.
Image: The New York Post.