The New York Times Paywall is Coming

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. spammed me this morning to say that the is moving to a subscription model very soon.

I blog about this topic only because I was once such an ardent front line promoter of the free-and-open model back in 1995 when launched and the traditional newsroom wanted the Wall Street Journal paid-sub model. I still maintain subscription content is a mistake in most cases, or at the very least, digital access should always be free to those antediluvian enough to continue paying for the print version.

Anyway, here’s the terms of the Times – of some interest as they surveyed me last fall with a lot of different possible scenarios and permutations. I’m moot due to the print subscription:

“On, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.

On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to all other sections within the apps, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.

The Times is offering three digital subscription packages that allow you to choose from a variety of devices (computer, smartphone, tablet). More information about these plans is available at

Again, all New York Times home delivery subscribers will receive free access to and to all content on our apps. If you are a home delivery subscriber, go to to sign up for free access.

Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

The home page at and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all “

The local rag, the Cape Cod Times, went to a metered paywall late last year. Maddening as hell to pay into a tiered model that tells me I have used 7 of 50 story clicks in a month. Whoever the financial whiz was that came up with that complex tiering system needs to be spanked.

I pay because I used to work there and somewhat like their local coverage — but a lot of the locals around me have moved on and given up on the Cape Cod Times. A death sentence for a local product that can only survive with local impressions. And if the pricing is going to happen — go flat and keep the complexity out of it. Please.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

6 thoughts on “The New York Times Paywall is Coming”

  1. It’s an interesting dilemma. We have all gotten used to getting our news online at no cost, and now they want to be paid for it? On the one hand, they can’t stay in business providing free content, nor should they give away their product. But on the other hand we’ve been spoiled.

    I guess it comes down to value, which is a pretty basic concept. If the product is worth something to you, you’ll pay for it — if not, you won’t. For me, paying the Cape Cod Times for news I heard 24 hours ago is out of the question. For the New York Times, I might open my wallet.

    As they say, it’s a “changing paradigm.” My brother-in-law, who works for the Boston Herald, told me a few years ago that they could give away the Sunday edition and still make a profit from advertising. No more, I’m afraid.

  2. David:

    I agree with what you say but what’s the answer? More to the point — if you were the publisher what policies would you implement?


  3. That’s right call me out Charlie. This is worthy of another post but would be yet-another-armchair-media-critic’s prescription.

    1. Paid content/subscriptions are fine and standard and not a crime against humanity or freedom of speech. But …
    2. Fungible content like wire service copy, sports scores, stock prices — are always going to be free and available somewhere anywhere for free
    3. Publishers have made no effort in differentiating their proprietary reporting — emphasizing the gaps in say local government coverage, crime, etc. and have instead gone the dumb-ass move since the late 70s of relying on the fungible filler and firing their local beat reporters.

    It’s all about local. The Times gets my money because of their talent and integrity and ability to put pens on the streets of Fukashima and Benghazi … better pens than the AP or Reuters. The Cape Cod Times gets my money because they send someone to knock on doors, collect police logs and sit through boring town committee hearings so I don’t have to. The Atlantic Monthly gets my money because they publish smart people like James Fallows.

    The Daily? Rupert’s iPad piece of shit? No way, no ever. just as no way not ever to USA Today.

    So … If I’m a publisher: I go hyperlocal, cover the community to DEATH, push hard on my local advertisers and convince them that I am the voice of the local community and try to claw back from Craigslist, eBay, and Google the local ad dollars of the Ford dealership, furniture warehouse and nail salons. I go paywall for a low rate — or, offer the reader a free ride if their waive their right to privacy and let me profile them and behaviorally target them.

    My personal information is worth a pant load to marketers — give me the right conditions and I’ll tell you everything you need to know to build an ad persona around ,me in exchange for letting me read your stuff for free. Quid Pro Quo.

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