The New York Times Plans a Blogger-Friendly Pay Wall. Link All You Like!
Will the pay wall the New York Times is building scare away the paper’s natural allies–bloggers who like to link to the site?
Daily Finance’s Jeff Bercovici floats the scenario by pointing to some eye-popping statistics. A new study says the Times is one of the four news sites bloggers link to most often. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, doesn’t warrant a mention.
Bercovici connects the dots: The Times is free. But The Wall Street Journal–which like this Web site, is owned by News Corp. (NWS)–has a pay wall. So if the Times puts up a wall, it could see its links dwindle, because bloggers don’t want to point to paid sites.
Probably not. Because that theory requires New York Times (NYT) management to work hard to scare away bloggers and other linkers (from Twitter, Facebook, etc.). But the Times says it’s going to make the commonsense move of encouraging links to the site.
Remember that the Times is building a “metered model” whereby visitors to the site can read a certain number of articles per month for free. That’s designed to keep attracting the casual, drive-by readers who make a up a large chunk of traffic at most sites. Even better: Bloggy links to the site won’t count against readers’ limits.
So says Times spokeswoman Stacy Green, in response to an email query I sent her yesterday:
Once the pay model is implemented next year, the majority of our readers will be unaffected when using the site and will continue to have the same experience they have always had. Readers will only be prompted to pay after reaching a certain reading limit. The pay model will be designed so readers that are referred from third party sites such as blogs will be able to access that content without hitting their limit, enabling NYTimes.com to continue being a part of the open web. We have not yet set the reading limit and we will communicate that once we have made the decision.
UPDATE: Green adds a bit of nuance in a comment below: Visits to the site via a link will count toward your limit. But if you’re over your limit, an outside link will still allow you to read that story. So the notion of a “limit” is hazy.
The Times seems intent on making this distinction, but for most readers it won’t matter: All they’ll know is that if a blogger, or a pal on Facebook or Twitter, gives them a link to a Times story, they’ll be able to read it.
So that one’s settled, yes? If so, we can move on to the more interesting question: How many Times readers will be willing to pay for access when the wall goes up? But we’re not going get an answer to that one for many months. Patience!