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I won’t even *link* to if they charge

January 20, 2010
NYC: New York Times Building

Source: wallyg's Flickr stream.

Will people pay for the New York Times online? | Old Media, New Tricks.

My answer: I won’t. And not only won’t I pay, but I’ll also go out of my way to not link to the New York Times. This isn’t me taking a stand against paywalls. If The New York Times believes their content is worth X amount and is willing to charge for it, I say bravo and way to have the guts to do something other than talk.

My problem with NYT’s metered plan (any paywall, really) is that it diminishes the value of a link that I may post.

Here’s why: I’m cruising around and I find an article on NYT’s site and I decide I’m going to blog about that article. I haven’t hit my monthly limit yet on how many NYT articles I can read, so I post it to my blog and it’s all good. Now let’s say 100 people view that blog post (optimistic, I know)—any number of those 100 may have already hit their NYT limit for the month. In other words, my blog post is mostly useless to anywhere between zero and 100 percent of my readers, that number can fluctuate daily and I have no way of knowing what that number actually is.

I said this on my company blog once: When you start to wall yourself off from the rest of the Internet, you become less of a Web site and more of a “rope site.” A Web is sticky—it makes connections so it can hang onto whatever comes into it (re: readers). A rope is something someone can just slip off of when they reach the end of it. No one’s coming back to a blog that regularly links to nowhere (for all intents and purposes). I’d do just as well to not link at all.

Update: Jay Rosen chimed in with these thoughts (among others) on NPR:

If the real part of The New York Times is its influcence, then this is a very risky move with the very heart and soul of the newspaper, which is its ability to affect and influence public conversation.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:15 pm

    I appreciate the NYT’s desire to make money, but you’re right about what a paywall will do to the paper’s inbound links and ability to influence public conversations.

  2. January 21, 2010 12:12 pm

    I think it’s smart to look for multiple sources of revenue; I just think, like Jay Rosen said, it’s a huge gamble to make one of those sources customer subscriptions. I also wonder whether these ideas are based in principle or in the reasoning of sound business practices.

  3. Eric permalink
    January 21, 2010 12:59 pm

    True. They are taking a big risk. Some interesting information from VentureBeat on how the paywalled WSJ site compares to the current NYT site in terms of attracting traffic from Facebook, blogs, and Twitter. The WSJ may not have as many social-media-savvy subscribers, but the numbers are still pretty telling.

  4. January 21, 2010 1:09 pm

    Good point/good link. My only issue with comparing the Wall Street Journal to other news outlets is that the WSJ can get away with charging for access because it offers a tangible benefit to one’s investment—namely, their business/stock tips offer an opportunity for the subscriber to make money. The same goes for ESPN and other sports journalism sites who charge for premium accounts; a person will pay for extra analysis on ESPN because it represents an opportunity to make money gambling.

    The fundamental problem with The New York Times or any other site that brokers exclusively in general information and wants to charge for it is that the information is freely available on thousands of other sites. WSJ/ESPN are able to charge because people can expect to make money off of the money they put into the sites. It’s much more difficult to convince someone that there’s material gain to be had in being in the know on current events.

  5. January 21, 2010 8:39 pm

    I was reading a Paid Content article and thought of something you mentioned above. From an NYT chat:

    Social media access will remain open, similar to search. “If you are coming to from another Web site and it brings you to our site to view an article, you will have access to that article and it will not count toward your allotment of free ones.”

  6. January 22, 2010 9:36 am

    @Greg – OK, well that basically kills this post :)

    Seriously, though, this is an interesting detail. Basically they’re incentivizing social media and penalizing non-users… well that’s a whole new post in and of itself.

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