Peter Kafka

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Apple Gets Its First Big Publisher: New York Times Subscriptions Will Be Sold Through iTunes

The New York Times has finally unveiled its paywall plans, a year-plus in the making.

And with the Times’ announcement, Steve Jobs gets his first big publisher to announce it is signing on with his new subscription plan: The Times says it will sell access to the paper’s apps through iTunes, on Jobs’ new terms.

That means that the Times will give up 30 percent of every subscription it sells through Apple. And the Times will also lose access to valuable subscriber data for those sales, too. But clearly the Times has decided that it’s better to work with Steve Jobs than to ignore altogether the market he’s created.

That doesn’t mean that subscribers who want access to the Times on their iPad or iPhone have to buy access through iTunes, just that they can. And that the Times will comply with Apple’s new rules for any of those sales.

The Times says its paywall packages will also work with Google’s Android platform, as well as Research In Motion’s Blackberry. But the Times won’t be selling subscriptions through Android or Blackberry app stores, says spokesperson Eileen Murphy; the only two places to buy access to the paper will be through its site, using its e-commerce engine, and via Apple.

As for the packages themselves: As predicted, they hover around the $20-a-month mark, starting at $15 a month for Web + phone access, up to $35 a month for all-you-can-eat on every platform.

Crucially, the plan gives free access to all platforms for subscribers who get the Times delivered, in paper and ink format, to their homes. Those subscribers, for now, are the papers’ most treasured resource, and it wants to hang on to them for as long as it can.

Not coincidentally, the cheapest way to get the most access to the paper continues to be a print subscription, at least for new subscribers, and at least for now. (Thanks for the reminder, Ari Weinberg)

While the Times all-access digital plan is $35 a month, new subscribers in the New York area can get a print subscription–along with full digital access, for about $25.35 a month. That price goes up outside of New York, but there’s still a discount. In Minneapolis and Los Angeles, for instance, new print subscribers will pay $32 a month.

The Times will put up its paywall in 11 days, on March 28th. It promises to comply with Apple’s subscription terms by making “1-click purchase available in the App Store by June 30 to ensure that readers can continue to access Times apps on Apple devices.”

And as previously announced, this isn’t a formal payall. Or, at least, it’s a porous one.

Anyone can use the Times’ Web site to read up to 20 articles a month for free. And if you’ve surpassed your monthly limit, you’ll still be able to read Times articles if you’ve been sent there from referring sites like Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else on the Web. The Times says it will place a five-article-per-day limit on Google referrals, however; it’s currently the only search engine with that limit, Murphy says.

To spell that out: If you want to game the Times’ paywall, just use Microsoft’s Bing. For now, at least.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus