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?