News has just broken about the New York Times Paywall and you must look at how insanely the media giant is going to charge readers for their newspaper’s digital version.
Reading norms and paywall structure goes like this:
- Readers of NYTimes.com can read a maximum of 20 articles each month. Beyond that, they will be asked to take up one of the subscription options.
- Top News section will remain free. For other sections, readers won’t be allowed until they’re digital subscribers.
- Three digital subscriptions are up for grabs. First subscription is priced at $15 for four weeks and gives access to NYTimes.com from Web and Mobile devices. Second option gives full access to NYTimes.com through web access and tablet devices. This option is priced at $20 for four weeks. Third option, priced at $35 for four weeks will give an all-access plan to NYTimes.com readers.
- If you’re a NYTimes home delivery newspaper subscriber or International Herald Tribune subscriber, you will get full access to digital content at no additional cost. That means, unlimited access to NYTimes.com irrespective of device type.
- Those readers who reach Times articles organically(search engines) or via referrals through Social Media will be able to access those individual articles, irrespective of their reading limit.
- Subscribers to the print edition of the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times, will receive free, unlimited access to NYTimes.com.
With whole list of norms that New York Times is going to implement starting March 28, the most affected users will be those who regularly access the website directly. Those who’re subscribers of paper edition won’t be affected but others will have to subscribe to one of those costly digital subscription plans that NYTimes has laid down.
NYTimes didn’t want to loose out of search engine and referral traffic due to paywall as that accounts for significant advertising dollars so they’ve tweaked their paywall in a way that paywall remains invisible to visitors through search engines and Social Media.
And it’s not just the costly paywall which will upset loyal readership of NYTimes.com but the norms that treat different reading devices as a different entity. For instance, if you buy $15 plan for 4 weeks then you will be given full web access and access through your mobile device. But what if you also have a tablet device and want to read from there ? For that, you will have to subscribe to another plan($20 for 4 weeks) that will allow access through tablet devices as well.
One can make distinction between paper and digital versions but differentiating on the basis of device type is a little too much from the Times.
From business perspective, this is the best digital strategy that NYTimes could possibly come up with, squeezing money through all possible channels (print subscription & advertising, digital subscription & advertising) but in our opinion, this isn’t a fair deal for loyal readership of NYTimes.
And when the digital subscription pricing is compared with iPad only ‘The Daily‘ which is priced at $40 per year, NYTimes tablet subscription of $260 per year($20/4 weeks) seems absurdly high.
Paywalls have failed to capture significant digital subscribers so far and we would be surprised if NYTimes changes that.