Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The New York Times raises the bar on its paywall

The New York Times paywall, which it erected last year, has just gotten harder to scale. The NYT will cut back on the number of articles it allows nonsubscribers to read, down from 20 a month to 10.

The change goes into effect in April.

The way the New York Times paywall works is that a nonsubscriber can read (currently up to 20) up to 10 articles. After that, the site will prompt for the reader to sign up for a subscription. Those who follow a link from Twitter or Facebook can go over the 10-article limit as many times as they want. The NYT offers a similar, but more limited exception for those sent there via Google search results.

According to the NYT, in the year since they first offered the policy, they have accumulated 454,000 subscribers. There are three different subscription plans (all of them are currently on sale for $0.99 for the first four weeks of access).

The first plan is normally $15 for four weeks and offers unlimited access to the NYT website and smartphone apps.

The second plan is normally $20 for four weeks, and gives users unlimited access to the NYT website and tablet apps for that timeframe.

The third plan is regularly $35 for four weeks, and gives complete access to the NYT website, smartphone apps, AND tablet apps.

There are, of course, easy ways around the paywall besides Twitter, Facebook, and Google Search, and they seem to still work. Since it was built the NYT paywall has been accused of being among the easiest to tear asunder.

While unpopular among Internet users, paywalls are becoming more popular among publishers who have seen subscribers bolt the printed word for the free space of the Web. In late February, the Los Angeles Times announced a similar paywall which was launched on March 5.

The LAT paywall allows 15 online articles each month for free, with a online subscription plan that is $3.99/week (after a first month of $0.99), and a print plus online subscription (plus Sunday paper) for $1.99/week, strangely less than the all-digital subscription.

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