New York Times

NYT raises paywall, reduces free access

New York Times
New York Times, March 1, 1932

The online New York Times has a problem, as does virtually every other print publication that has been forced by the advance of technology to develop an online presence. The problem is how to make readers pay to see content. Subscribers and newsstand sales have been a significant chunk of income for print publications, although always second to advertising sales. But how do you force people to buy a subscription to something that’s been out there on the Internet for free and to some extent, continues to be?

A year ago the Times instituted a system that allows you to read up to 20 articles a month for free and after that, unless you subscribe, your access is blocked. I’d forgotten that until this morning, when I followed a link in my email to a NYT editorial entitled “Make-or-Break Verbs” (that’s me, always the grammarian). As I scanned it half-heartedly I noticed a blurb in the sidebar about another grammar article, “Fanfare for the Comma Man” (clever title), and eagerly clicked on that. Comma usage is so much more interesting than a discussion of verbs.

Oops. A gradient tint covered my entire screen, gradually blacking out the screen from top to bottom so that the lower half was unreadable. Nor could I scroll to read around the darkened area. In truth, it looked like a computer malfunction, but a barely readable note was included in the overlay that reminded me I’d reached my 20-article limit, per their “paywall” system. Or something like that. Hrumph!

For your future reference, there are ways around this. If you jump from item to item on the Times website, that 20-article limit will overtake you. But if you arrive at your article via a link from somewhere else, you’ll have access. So I googled the article’s title, found it mentioned on another website, went there, clicked the link to the Times article, and landed on a nice clear page where I proceeded to read the article. No gradient screen or note about exceeding my limit.

With my background in publishing, I fully understand and sympathize with the problems publishers are having trying to adapt and survive in this technological age. But I rarely read as many as 20 articles in the NYT each month. (That’s dropping to 10 this month.) And I certainly can’t afford one of their subscriptions just for my casual browsing. My guess is some of you can’t either. So if you run into that reading limit — at what undoubtedly will be a most inconvenient time — try the above end run to get to your article.

Had that maneuver failed, my next step, if I’d wanted to bother with it, would have been to delete all NYT cookies from my browser (that’s how they track your visits). Or switch to a different browser. Eventually NYT and I will reach a delicate balance of some sort. They’ll have closed off most free access and I’ll either settle for very little access or break down and subscribe.

8 thoughts on “NYT raises paywall, reduces free access

  1. Thought that the Times had already done a full pay-to-read revamp last year. Which is shy I never even bother to click on any links to their stories anymore. I thought when they started this practice that they’re shooting themselves in the foot.
    Yes, they do need a way to make money -or go out of business- and the NYT has one of the best reps in the newspaper business.
    Still, I will not pay their ridiculous fee for content.
    Understand your predicament -sigh-

    1. Nope, since last year it’s been a 20-article-per-month limit. More than adequate for my casual browsing. But effective this month it’s down to 10 and that could become troublesome if the above workarounds cease to function.

  2. Don’t forget that Newspapers have always been a minority product. That is, in the last 50 years, few, if any papers, ever reached 25 percent of their catchment population. The NYT has always reached at most around 5-10% of New Yorkers. They may just have to resign themselves to shrinking back into that small of a number, and having only a few people read it- but having those few being a very wealthy, advertiser attractive, high paying few. After all, the paper copy is 700 bucks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the online go to 400 bucks in a couple years. Sad to say, but the paywall is likely here to stay.

    1. I’ve always had the greatest respect for the NYT, but could never afford to be a regular reader. I expect to be mostly squeezed out again as they keep raising the paywall. Still, some free content is useful to attract readers, so I’m hoping they’ll never completely shut it down.

... and that's my two cents