With the announcement of its new digital subscription, the New York Times officially ended ‘the free ride’ offered to its online readers. In the past 48 hours, this business decision has been met with no shortage of criticism and praise.
Taking A Look At The Bricks In The (Pay) Wall
So can the NYT transform its digital readers who are used to the free online access into paying customers?
Once you dig a little deeper into NYT’s decision to switch to paywall, you discover some drastic changes in the newspaper’s business model that reflect an over-arching industry change as a whole.
Let’s start with the ongoing web vs. app debate that pits on-the-go readers against those at their computers.
The NYT unveiled a 3 -tiered pricing model for its new digital subscription.
Instead of choosing to create a simple online paid subscription, the NYT chose to include a distinct plan that includes tablet and site access. Full digital access costs $35/month, site and tablet access costs $20/month, and site and smartphone $15.
A writer from Wired points out that this indicates the NYT holds its mobile users as the most valuable.
“The Times is strongly indicating it sees its economic future less as a purveyor of news on the web and more as a publisher through mobile devices like the iPad and apps, access to which can be more easily controlled.”
And it is in this plan that a writer for TechCrunch has a serious problem with. He claims that the NYT subscription plan is discriminating by device, which is an inherent problem to those who have both an iPad and iPhone.
“A digital subscription should be a digital subscription, and it shouldn’t matter what kind of computer you use to read the paper on.”
Most people who own an iPad also own a touch screen smart phone of sorts and therefore have to shell out extra cash for both subscriptions.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with the ‘discriminatory principles’ of this model, there’s no argument that by setting this tiered structure, NYT is drawing a line in the sand with its readers. The NYT believes its readers want their news on their apps and are adjusting their model accordingly.
There is one fascinating loophole to this new paywall structure that a different writer for TechCruch points to.
It’s social media.
All of those who enter the New York Times website via Twitter or Facebook will be allowed to read for free. This speaks volumes about how the New York Times values social media.
For one, the NYT believes that news spreading through Facebook and Twitter is more important than Google search results, which is unprecedented attitude for news organizations.
Also, they believe their core online audience is active enough on these social networks that they won’t be disturbed by these paywalls and will only be voicing positive opinions on the web.
“NYT seems to be betting here that these users are the same ones that now rely on Twitter and Facebook for their news discovery. And they will be unaffected.”
The writer’s main point and one I’m going to use as well in this blog post; is that if you’re reading this, you are “unlikely to be affected by NYT paywall because you probably came here from Facebook or Twitter.” Sign of the times.