Posted February 22, 2010 3:11 pm by with 10 comments

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After years of debate and experimentation, the New York Times announced its decision of a pay-meter system last month. Although the switch isn’t due for more than a year, we’ve all had our questions. Last week, executives of the Times took the opportunity at the paidContent conference to answer those questions.

Unfortunately, it looks like they’re not all on the same page, especially when it comes to the many popular blogs hosted by the Times. Reports Felix Salmon of Reuters:

[Senior VP of Digital Operations Martin] Nisenholtz did say quite clearly that he expected ad revenue to go up rather than down, which implied to me that that paywall was going to be pretty porous. And [owner Arthur Sulzberger] said that “we are not trying to eliminate ourselves from the digital ecosystem”. But when I asked about specifics, it all got rather messy. It started when I asked whether the NYT’s own blogs would be counted towards the quota, and Nisenholtz replied that “our intention is to keep blogs behind the wall”.

Salmon also reports that the NYT confirmed to the WSJ that the blogs would be kept behind the paywall.

The meter system is designed to allow users to access a certain number of stories for free on the New York Times each month. For the occasional reader, that will probably be fine. However, for loyal followers of such blogs as the Freakonomics blog, it might not take long to meet your free article quota—and though there are many followers of NY Times blogs, I doubt that many of them would be willing to pay to read a blog. Salmon contends that the authors of the Freakonomics blog shouldn’t (and wouldn’t) stand for such an audience-cutting move.

RSS is another issue here: with the execs apparently confused about whether or not following a link from a third-party site would count toward your quota, they didn’t discuss whether following a link from a presumably-summary RSS subscription would count.

What do you think? Should the Times put blogs behind the paywall? Can they afford to sacrifice their readers—and possibly their blog authors?

  • In essence, it sounds like they’re going to a “light” version of the firewall policy that failed, the first time around. That’s when they created the blogs for their syndicated columnists.

    I suspect that part of the problem is that a lot of “big name” columnists and contributors don’t like to have their arguments dissected onsite or off, comments on controversial blog posts and columns are difficult to manage, and a lot of their outside contributors and sources “don’t like bloggers”. If you see building a community as a cross between herding cats and placating prima donnas, your best effort is likely to fail. The current proposal seems to be a walk-back from whatever type of community they’ve been half-heartedly trying to build.

    The policy, in essence, declares that repeat visitors only have value as subscribers. Not as people who engage with the website or who might even create content. It sounds like a great model if they can convince the rest of the world to shift back into the pre-Internet or early Internet era, but not such a great model for today.
    .-= Aaron´s last blog ..Lead, Follow or… Get In The Way? =-.

  • I suppose the openness of NYTimes so far was just a link-building strategy.

    Nobody likes it when something free all of a sudden isn’t. I get that. What frustrates me about this move, is that there is no added value with the construction of a PayWall. It’ll be the same content. What’s more, distribution costs are declining, which leads me to believe that the cost of their publishing should also decrease. Having the opposite happen just seems greedy to me.

    Guess I’ll have to subscribe to the thousands of great free alternatives from other thought leaders. Or perhaps another old-school-cum-new-media newspaper like or

    Looking forward to seeing how this affects NTtimes traffic and revenue.

    It’s been a good ride so far NYTIMES. Maybe too good?

  • I feel an ever onward slide towards micro-pay for content. Perhaps in a year or two there’ll be a system for deducting something like $0.02 per NY Times blog article you access or read, pulled out of a PayPal account or somesuch, as a sort of “pay-as-you-go” format, followed by subscription All-Access Passes…
    .-= GIles (Webconomist)´s last blog ..Social Media and Banks: An Emotional Place =-.

  • Wious

    And the chances of this experiment working areeeeeeee? 0

  • Mat

    Reuters will no doubt be waiting for the extra free traffic.

  • I think NY Times should be careful here – are they going to offer anything substantially different once readers have to pay? Or is it just literally going to be the same blogs, the same authors but with a price tag attached? If RSS doesn’t count, would that mean in theory actually you could still view everything for free?
    .-= Luci´s last blog ..Ensure Your Business Survives Post-Recession with an Effective SEO Campaign =-.

  • It’s one thing for articles (from the print edition) to be behind a paywall. But why put blog entries (which are often just quick transcribings of thoughts) behind the barrier?

    I could see people paying to get access to the digital newspaper, but not blogs.

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