The overall news from the New York Times Co.’s quarterly earnings report this week wasn’t good — net income is down 57 percent from a year ago — but there was one silver lining for online paid-content advocates: More than 100,000 people have begun paying for the Times’ website since it began charging for access last month.
100,000 doesn’t sound that high to me… and, 57% sounds pretty terrible also.
We’re still in the early days of the New York Times paywall, but traffic-measurement firm Hitwise already has some numbers on how the subscription plan has affected the newspaper’s readership. The bottom line? The Times has seen a drop of between 5 and 15 percent in daily readers. That may not seem like much — especially compared with the falloff at some other papers that have implemented more restrictive paywalls — but 15 percent is still a fairly significant decline. And there are signs in the Hitwise data that the NYT may not have fine-tuned its wall as well as it might have hoped, which could have an impact on the long-term health of the subscription strategy.
Careful what you wish for.
“After reviewing our options, we decided to extend the policy of five free clicks per day to all major search engines by the global launch on March 28. Our pre-launch period in Canada was undertaken to enable us to test the systems and fine-tune the model.”
Well, there goes the social media loophole.
It’s a trick that most web-savvy news consumers know. Is a WSJ article behind a paywall? Just Google the title of it. Click on the resulting link and boom, free access to the entire thing. No questions asked. This new NYT model is taking that idea and flipping it.
The Google loophole will still be in play — but only for five articles a day. It’s not clear how they’re going to monitor this (cookies? logins?), but let’s assume for now that somehow they’ll be able to in an effective way. For most readers, the five article limit will likely be more than enough. But that’s not the important thing. What’s interesting is that the NYT appears to be saying two things. First, this action says that spreading virally on social networks like Twitter and Facebook is more important to them than the resulting traffic from Google. And second, this is a strategic bet that they likely believe will result in the most vocal people on the web being less pissed off.
Why even erect the damn thing in the first place? I guess they’re trying to really just charge the long tail of users, resigning themselves to give their content away for free the vast majority of previously paying customers, and make their profit on – essentially – residuals.
It’s totally the opposite of the standard business model, but there’s a lot of that going around these days, isn’t there?
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