Times To Pay The Price

March 28, 2011 § 3 Comments

Updated: March 28, 2011 8:12 p.m.
And so the experiment begins, with traditional print journalists heaving a sigh of relief and online folks raising an eyebrow or two while posting away jauntily on their blogs with the words “failure” and “mistake.”

Today, the NYTimes website unveiled a small box in the upper right corner entitled “Digital Subscriptions” that has the potential to re-energize what some have referred to as  a sinking paper ship known as the newspaper.  But will people go for it?

That question alone has been the subject of  intense conversation between professional, amateur and even journalists in training (such as myself) at some point or another, touching upon the industry’s ability to charge an audience for what it’s been able to get for free.

But whether the move spells out success or doom for the media giant is yet to be seen.

What we do know is this: it wouldn’t be the first time that a newspaper has evoked a pay wall onto its online twin (The Wall Street Journal claims the prize for largest newspaper to initiate and sustain a pay wall), nor is  it even the first attempt by the Times itself.

Indeed, the Times briefly flirted with the idea of monetizing their online content with TimesSelect only to ditch the plan two years later in 2007. Up until today,  readers were given unbridled access to any of the Times articles written post 1980.  The site’s general manager at the time had this to say on the decision to eliminate what had brought in $10 million a year for the company:

“We now believe by opening up all our content and unleashing what will be millions and millions of new documents, combined with phenomenal growth, that that will create a revenue stream that will more than exceed the subscription revenue.” (Vivian Schiller)

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as the Times continues to bleed red and viewers  have much more to choose from now than they did back in ’07 –both for free and online.

The wall has already dominated the blogosphere with some supporters like  The Onion who called  it a “bold business move” and  readers of Business Insider affirming the wall’s future success. But the web also hosts the paper’s ‘fare’ share of wall naysayers like The Street who call it “the dumbest of this week’s dumbest.”

Unsurprisingly,  sites such as this one take a stronger stance on the inadequacies of the wall with instructions on how to evade it entirely. (If anyone tries it, do tell me how it goes. I am very interested in seeing if the web gods really are all powerful–even in the likes of the Sulzbergers). PCWorld does a great job at breaking the terms of the pay wall down for size with their post here.

But while many are anxious to see just how porous or impervious this pay wall is, I for one am dreading the day that I see the pay wall in all it’s digital brick-ish glory upon hitting my 21st article (something that will occur in probably less than a week’s time).

As a broke (journalism) college student, paying that extra $7.40 a week just isn’t an option.

So, food for thought: how many of you are opening your wallets for an online subscription and how many of you are not ready just yet to throw in the proverbial towel?

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§ 3 Responses to Times To Pay The Price

  • Wes bos says:

    Thanks for including my site. Please note however that I do not dislike the paywall. If you like the new York times, then pay for it. I’m simply showing how weak this wall is from a development standpoint. Do not paint me otherwise, it’s poor journalism.

    • zou247 says:

      Hi Wes, I apologize for unintentionally misrepresenting the purpose of your blog post.

      As the third site (at the time that I did the google ) from the top of a google search on “nytimes pay wall,” your blog post is certainly going to grab a large amount of viewership. By providing detailed loopholes in the system for fellow web-enabled users, you are indeed impacting the course of the discussion on the pay wall–whether you intend to or not. I think I grouped you (and perhaps inadequately and erroneously so) in the category of anti-pay-wall from an integrity standpoint. I’ve spoken to several web students and consider them “anti-pay-wall” in the sense that they don’t believe in the integrity of the wall and thus its efficacy.

  • B Wai says:

    I for one am NOT ready to pay a subscription. I refuse to even pay for the print subscription. I will definitely be one sad little journalist when this happens. I know that Newsday hates its pay wall. Well, the journalists hate the pay wall. Especially the freelancers who want others to see their work, but the pay wall keeps their followers away. It will be a sad day when this happens. Nice post Jenny Zou, nice post.

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