Recently, NYTimes.com launched a much ballyhooed rollout of its digital subscription in an attempt to monetize its online content without compromising the “discoverability” of NYTimes.com via search engines. Essentially, the New York Times lets you access 20 articles for free via “major search engines” before it asks you to pony up for unlimited access. When you reach your 20 article limit, you’ll see this splash screen:
You can get rid of this nagging window in one of two ways:
1. Pay about $15 a month for access from your computer and/or smartphone or tablet.
2. Go to your address bar and delete the numbers that come after the “gwh=” portion of the URL (see screenshot) and press Enter.
That was easy, huh?
You can also bypass the NYTimes.com paywall by going into Incognito Mode or Private Browsing mode, clearing your browser cookies or simply using another browser.
Is the NYTimes.com an Epic Fail?
Many are pointing at NYTimes.com’s $40 million paywall system and laughing. But I think they miss the point. For anyone who is even a little bit savvy, this paywall is going to be a minor inconvenience at best—as easy as hopping an unmanned turnstile. But I really think that NYTimes.com has their priorities straight on this one.
Their challenge: find a way to make money from their online content—which gets millions of hits a day, I’m sure—without plastering it with obnoxious ads or creating a subscription-only model that essentially excludes it from search engine indexes, which are likely responsible for much of NYTimes.com’s new online readership.
The folks at New York Times are not morons. They didn’t think that everyone was instantly going to hand over their wallets. They didn’t think that marginally clever folks in the blogosphere wouldn’t devise and publish ways to skirt their paywall. I assume that they anticipated this type of activity and calculated it into their business model. I think it’s easy to underestimate the sheer volume of traffic that NYTimes.com garners. If 999 out of 1,000 people see that paywall and click away or “hack” their way around it, that still leaves one person who decided that access to some of the finest journalism on or off the web via NYTimes.com is worth $15 a month.
But the thing is, NYTimes.com gets way, way more than 1,000 views a day. If I were to guess (based on their Alexa Ranking), I would say they probably get around… 150 million page views daily from 15 million unique . So if NYTimes.com converts just 1% of their daily readership, your looking at monthly subscriptions coming in around $2.25 million each month (2,250,000 X $15). Not bad considering that’s $2M more than last month.
So, before you write the paywall off as an epic fail, know that NYTimes.com wasn’t likely going for the whole ball of wax. They understand that making their online content available and user-friendly is far more important than turning a profit at this juncture. They are exercising some pretty admirable restraint, and I think it will pay off in the long run.
So, to NYTimes.com, I say “Thanks!” Thanks for doing what a business has to do without making your website completely suck. I just might end up subscribing.