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.
- NYT reaches nearly 500K paid subs, ups paywall (vator.tv)
- NYT – Keep on Reading, Play the Digital Subscription Limits (bookwich.wordpress.com)
- NYT: We Have 454,000 Digital Subs So Let’s Turn Down The Meter (paidcontent.org)
- Paywall Changes at the NY Times: The Number of Free Articles Available to Non-Subscribers Cut by 50% (teleread.com)
- Full digital access to NYT.com will cost $420 (news.cnet.com)
- The New York Times cuts free access to ten articles per month, has 454,000 paid digital subscribers (theverge.com)