After months of speculation and anticipation from all sides of the industry, The New York Times revealed Thursday morning the details of its website paywall, which will be erected for US readers on Monday, March 28 (for Canadian readers, it goes into effect immediately). The magic number? $15. From Jeremy Peters:
Beginning March 28, visitors to NYTimes.com will be able to read 20 articles a month without paying, a limit that company executives said was intended to draw in subscription revenue from the most loyal readers while not driving away the casual visitors who make up the vast majority of the site’s traffic.
Once readers click on their 21st article, they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages — $15 for a month of access to the Web site and a mobile phone app; $20 for Web access and an iPad app; and $35 for an all-access plan.
Home subscribers will have free access online, but will have to pay for Kindle or Nook downloads. And the article total will differ depending on how a reader comes to the site:
Not all visits to NYTimes.com will count toward the 20-article limit. In an effort to ensure that as many as possible of the Web site’s more than 30 million monthly readers are not deterred from visiting, The Times will allow access to people who visit through search engines like Google and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. There will, however, be a five-article limit a day for people who visit the site from Google.
This is called a “metered” approach or a “freemium” model, and many websites throughout the industry are looking to the Times to see how the experiment plays out. With this plan, the Times has acknowledged that the all-or-nothing subscription method—like that of The Times of London—isn’t a viable one, at least for a general news site.
David Folkenflik on NPR.org quotes Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. as saying, “We did not — any of us — feel that putting up an iron gate, if you will, that cut us out of the digital ecosystem, made any sense at all,” Sulzberger told NPR. “So this is about balance.”