On Monday The New York Times rolled out its paywall system which means readers will now begin paying for full access to the site. The site also dangled a heavily discounted introductory offer intended to lure its first digital subscribers.
The newspaper is offering three digital subscription packages, including an all-access option, so you can choose a plan that is right for you based on which device you use to access the site — computer, smartphone or tablet.
For now however the site is offering its three digital subscription plans for the same price of US$0.99 for the first four weeks.
The Times announced its plans for digital subscription earlier this month and began charging for digital content in Canada on March 17th.
“The Canadian launching allowed us to test our systems and fine-tune the user interface and customer experience,” writes Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. New York Times publisher, in a letter to the readers.
After the initial test cost, unlimited access to NYTimes.com and the newspaper’s smartphone application will cost US$15 for four weeks while full access to the website and a tablet computer application will cost US$20 for four weeks.
Full access to NYTimes.com and both smartphone and tablet applications will be US$35 for four weeks.
However if you are already subscriber, as in you get the print version delivered already, you still have full access to the site. If you are not a subscriber you get 20 free articles a month and if you access the articles via external links such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs it’s still free.
Also, articles on the NYTimes.com homepage and the “Top News” section on smartphones and tablets will always be free and accessible. As far as paywalls go, it seems the Times have given serious thought into keeping it current by not cutting off all their access. Readers accessing the NYTimes articles from social network links, however, might not even bother to subscribe.
Sulzberger further says in his letter to readers that the introduction of digital subscriptions is an “investment in our future.”
“It will allow us to develop new sources of revenue to strengthen our ability to continue our journalistic mission as well as undertake digital innovations that will enable us to provide you with high-quality journalism on whatever device you choose,” Sulzberger said.
Speaking last week at The Paley Center for Media in New York, the Times publisher further adds that he is well aware that people will manage to find ways around paying for the newspaper online.
“We did create something purposely porous,” Sulzberger said.
“Can people go around the system?” he asked. “The answer is yes. There are going to be ways.
“Just as if you run down Sixth Avenue right now and you pass a newsstand and grab the paper and keep running you can actually get the Times free,” he said.
This paywall decision is particularly key in today’s media climate. More and more people are choosing to get their news online. Online advertising much cheaper compared to what print advertising cost, and advertising is the unfortunate business model that most media empires are built on. And that includes the NY Times.
Whether the paywall works better their the site’s earlier attempt in 2007 with TimesSelect remains to be seen.