Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

New York Times Makes Its Paywall Harder to Jump

A year after launching a controversial paywall, the New York Times says it has nearly half a million paying subscribers for its flagship paper. It also says it will make it harder for people to read on the Web without paying up.

The Times is cutting back on the number of “free” articles it lets nonsubscribers read, from 20 a month to 10. The change goes into effect in April.

The rest of the paywall’s architecture appears to remain unchanged. The publisher will still let visitors who end up at the paper after following a link from Twitter or Facebook go over the 10-article limit as many times as they want. And it will offer a similar, but more limited dispensation for those sent there by Google.

The idea is to offer a “porous” wall that lets the Times have it both ways: Avid readers will need to pay up, but the paper still gets the benefit of search and social Web traffic.

At launch, that strategy seemed to befuddle the Times’ critics, and the paper didn’t do the most effective job at communicating the details. But consumers seem to have figured it out. In the last quarter of 2011, circulation revenue was up about 5 percent, driven by digital-subscription uptake.

But the Times’ overall revenue continues to decline, and late last year, CEO Janet Robinson was shoved out the door (along with a very generous parachute).

So here’s the important question about today’s news: Is the Times cutting back on its free reads because:

A) It can, having proved that people will pay to read the paper online?

or

B) It has to, because the rest of its business continues to weaken?

Discuss.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock/contax66)


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