Yesterday to much hubbub, The New York Times announced its new paywall/subscription plan to its readers marking a pivotal shift as the largest American newspaper begins charging for once free content. The internet (being its typical self), lashed back with arguments, workarounds, and actually some (minor) praise for the change. We wanted to not only assess the current state of affairs but also recite the plans and rules for our readers since they are surprisingly convoluted and a bit difficult to understand.
Firstly, for all you print subscribers, you will have unlimited access to all digital forms of the NYT (except through e-readers). Non-subscribers will be allotted 20 article views per month. How the site plans to keep track of these views is kept secret, likely in an attempt to deter hackers or other tech-savy people from attempting to bypass their counting system. After the 20 views, readers will be asked to subscribe to one of these three plans:
- $15 a month ($195 a year) for website and mobile phone app subscription.
- $20 a month ($260 a year) for website and iPad app subscription
- $35 a month ($455 a year) for full access
We have to be completely honest that we were definitely surprised by the high cost of the subscription fees. When we first heard about the Times's plan to create this subscription system last year, we were anticipating a $5-$10/month charge for full access. Looking at the plans now, it certainly makes us second guess our decision to buy. We would also have appreciated some sort of student/university discount. Sometimes college kids are the people who need sites like the Times the most and coming up with this kind of money could be difficult. Thankfully, there is another clause to this whole subscription system which is definitely the silver lining.
In an effort to soften the blow to their loyal readership of over 30 million viewers a month, the New York Times has built in a few workarounds which will grant you unlimited access to the site once again, for free. Readers will be able to access as many articles as they want when referred through search engines, Facebook, and Twitter. Google, however, will have a 5 article per day cap. However, astute readers will be able to find nearly any article they want through the New York Times's own 225 Twitter accounts or @FreeNYT.
As mentioned above, the drastic cost increase definitely took us by surprise. In fact, judging by this Slate poll, it seems like the vast majority was expecting a much lower pricing structure. The move is disconcerting to be sure. We're all so used to consuming valuable, high-quality media and content for free, largely thanks to voluntary efforts or ad revenue supporting the costs. This has been the dominant system since the internet's inception. Will this mark a new shift as large online media corporations begin to charge for their content access? And we still have to put up with the ads?
Believe us, as writers and creative professionals, we certainly appreciate the craft, time, and cost of creating something as successful and valuable as the New York Times. But we've happily endured the barrage of ads that we encounter as we flip through the NYT app on the iPad or scroll through some pages on the website. Dealing with and (ignoring ads) has been a way of life for us. But now it seems like monthly subscriptions and a draining bank account isn't far off in our future.
(Images: Flickr member Robert Scoble, Flickr member B.K. Dewey licensed for use under Creative Commons)