Mar 17, 2011

paywall reactions

I've been collecting some interesting bits throughout the day about the NY Times paywall announcement. Will update this throughout the day with more as I find them...

Dave Winer: "Wouldn't it have been wise to, at this juncture, offer something to sweeten the deal. Something truly exciting and new that you get when you pay the money. Something that makes your palms sweat and your heart beat faster?"

Megan Garber at Nieman: "None of those details are surprising. (Other than the prices, which, wow.)" (I agree. What's interesting, though, is that this will probably push me to subscribe to the weekend paper edition. I want the Sunday Times the digital stuff would be gravy.)

David Weinberger: "Really? The entire nation of Canada is just a beta tester for the US and the rest of the world?How do you find out what version number is Canada up to, anyway? Click on the maple leaf?"

Cory Doctorow: "Lots of people are going to greet the NYT paywall with eye-rolling and frustration: You stupid piece of technology, what do you mean I've seen 20 stories this month? This is exactly the wrong frame of mind to be in when confronted with a signup page (the correct frame of mind to be in on that page is, Huh, wow, I got tons of value from the Times this month. Of course I'm going to sign up!)"

Danny Sullivan: "NYT introducing new roulette paywall, where whether you have to pay or not depends on how the ball drops." (This, I think, combined with Cory's point above, will be the biggest weakness: I'm an (obviously) engaged consumer of the Times, and I don't understand how this is going to work, and when I land on the wall it's going to feel random, and it's going to make me reach for the back button instead of the "subscribe" button.)

Felix Salmon: "What does all this mean for the New York Times Company? I can’t see how it’s good. The paywall is certainly being set high enough that a lot of regular readers will not subscribe. These are readers who would normally link to the NYT from their blogs, who would tweet NYT articles, who would post those articles on Facebook, and so on. As a result, not only will traffic from these readers decline, but so will all their referral traffic, too. The NYT makes more than $300 million a year in digital ad revenue, so even a modest decline in pageviews, relative to what the site could have generated sans paywall, can mean many millions of dollars foregone. On top of that, the paywall itself cost somewhere over $40 million to develop." (Go read the whole thing -- Salmon does the math on the potential impact, and argues that it won't be big.)

Mark Potts: "This really looks like small potatoes, perhaps just a sop to virulent 'we must get paid!' factions within the Times." (There are these strains of virulent factions? I'd love to learn more about them -- are they journalists? Or business people? Or do they run the subscription business? I can't imagine the Times making this massive bet (tech investment, business model change, etc.) just to appease some people on the management team...)

Andrew Ross Sorkin: "To honor our commitment to our loyal DealBook readers, all our articles will continue to be accessible without a digital subscription." (Wow.)

Danny Sullivan: "In the end, it seems like you want a paywall that gives your most loyal users something you don’t give the drive-by readers. I suppose convenience is part of that, but right now, as announced, the paywall is so riddled with holes that drive-bys won’t be inconvenienced at all."