Starting March 28, The New York Times will begin charging online readers $15/month to access news via its website and mobile phone app, $20/month through Web and iPad and $35/month for all devices. Up to 20 articles each month will be provided at no charge through the newspaper’s website, with digital subscription plan offers to be presented only once this limit has been reached. Current home delivery subscribers will enjoy unlimited free access on all electronic devices except for the Kindle, Nook and other eReaders.
“This move is an investment in our future,” Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, recently told the paper’s employees in an official statement. “This system is our latest, and best, demonstration of where we believe the future of valued content — be it news, music, games or more — is going.” Previously available for free to 30 million viewers each month, the online version of the storied paper hopes to appease casual readers by not counting visits from Facebook or Twitter links toward the 20-article limit. A five-article limit, however, will be imposed on visitors who reach the site through Google online searches.
Whether it’s a wise move for the so-called Gray Lady and celebrated journalistic institution remains open for debate, as daily newspapers continue to come under siege from websites, online classifieds and hyper-local news organizations. Newspaper print advertising remains in an ongoing slide, even as the news media struggle to offset the decline with growing online revenues while the value of online content is increasingly becoming commoditized. The publishers of The New York Times argue that erecting a paywall will help grow revenues by better engaging the publication’s most loyal, active viewers. However, industry insiders fear this paywall, coupled with ever-growing public expectations to receive news and media free of charge — behaviors long-ingrained in the collective online consciousness — could alienate the paper’s larger fan base.
Whether it’s truly the right path forward, or if the answer lies in some combination of freemium, micro-payment or time-/article-limited access, is as yet undetermined. Either way, the success or failure of this experiment is destined to not only have a marked effect on the newspaper industry but also on the prospective future of digital publishing. Assuming they’re willing to pay, or are under their monthly 20-article limit, diligent readers will no doubt stay tuned for further updates.