News Leadership 3.0

March 28, 2011

New York Times metering system - Expensive tip jar?

The Times today launches a new attempt to get some online-only readers to pay for subscriptions. There’s been a lot of good writing about the new system, which allows users to access digital content free through social channels or up to 20 articles a month before asking for a monthly payment. I want to underline three points:

1. I hope the new system won’t change the content design and navigation. Since only 20 reads a month are allowed, I can see a temptation to create more click-throughs by chunking stories. Nate Silver, bless him, said the opposite would be true for his 538 blog, where he promised longer, less frequent posts.

2. Repeat after me: The Times’ results won’t prove or disprove paid content works or doesn’t. It’s a unique experiment that draws on unique position of the Times as a highly respected national publication. It’s unfortunate too that the Times new system still favors the print readers and does not provide incentives for readers to move online - if not price breaks then additional features. And I’m surprised at the price point, which seems high (but perhaps that recognizes that there will be relatively few takers.)

3. It may produce a revenue stream but don’t expect a significant one. Even the Times only expects 15 percent of users to even hit the “gate” and be asked to pay. So like other publications, the Times remains heavily invested in advertising revenues. Like others, it clearly needs to keep working on additional sources. I’m disappointed as well that more than a year of R&D didn’t produce something more innovative.

I am going to test the limits of free for a while. I am not a voracious Times reader. I read one or two articles a day and come to many of them through links posted on Twitter. I get most of the my international news from The Economist and most of my national news from a range of publications via links on Twitter. I suspect I will increasingly look to other sources for this news.  At the same time, I value the journalism of The Times, particularly its coverage of national policy and some of its international coverage. I also recognize that the original reporting in The Times informs civic discussion well beyond the bounds of its Web site.

So I may subscribe to the $15 a month Web access. But for me, it will be akin to dropping a very large tip in the jar.

Want to know more? Check out this analysis from Paid Content.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


I think that the Times Paywall is EXACTLY that - a tip jar. It’s certainly not ‘access’ that one gets if they contribute.

With that in mind - I think the Times needs to find something else to give to folks who contribute because again it aint ‘access.’

I fully agree as well that it won’t prove or disprove anything. I think it will make for a nice little revenue stream - but it’s not a game-changer. What I really want to see are nice benefits for folks that donate. Say…. points…. where they then get to decide what kind of coverage they see on the Times ala In some respects I think the NYT has just taken a giant leap in the direction of NPR. One more step (giving people transparency/control over how the money gets spent) and they’re duplicating

Best Michelle!

I agree, David, that the Times could give contributors more - some form of membership with access to special deals or articles or t-shirts!

This is wonderful! Finally I don’t feel like a fool for paying for the subscription…

Absolute Steel—Steel building kits easily assembled by unskilled labor using common tools. Watch the video & see for yourself.

wonderfull…some form of membership with access to special bakery

That’s a key preliminary takeaway from a survey I am conducting of community publishers.
personal statement writers

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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