Readers who access The New York Times online will soon be charged for their usage, as executives at the newspaper recently announced a plan to create digital subscriptions.
The newspaper’s publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. explained in a March 17 letter that the new pay wall will first take effect in Canada and will be introduced to the U.S. and the rest of the world on March 28.
“It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in the Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform,” Sulzberger stated in the letter.
The new plan will not affect home delivery subscribers, as they will retain free access to the newspaper’s digital content on their computers, smart phones and tablets. However, those who do not have this service will be allotted 20 free articles a month and will be asked to become a digital subscriber once they exceed that limit.
Still, some content will remain free of charge, including the Top News section found on smartphone and tablet devices, and readers who are led to a Times article via links through social networking sites will also not be charged. These viewers can still access the content through this method even if they have already reached their limit. The Times’ homepage and all section fronts will remain free to browse at all times.
The newspaper’s new pay wall has met mixed reviews.
News industry analyst Ken Doctor praised the new plan for its aim of capitalizing faithful readers.
“Here is the growing epiphany about these core readers: Not only do they pay you; they use lots more pages than the fly-by people, the non-core sent by Google, Facebook, Twitter and all manner of other referrals,” Doctor wrote on his Newsonomics Web site. “Not only do you get more usage from this paying core group, but those readers also become better and better advertising targets each day.”
But analyst Steve Outing wrote on his own blog that the plan was a “bad move.” Rather than create a model where readers pay to view individual articles—similar to how Apple charges iTunes users for each song they download—Outing said the Times plan forces readers to pay a flat fee regardless of how many articles they do or do not actually read.
“What the high price point will do—because of the low limit on monthly free articles—is dramatically diminish the Times’ importance as a global news organization, ceding its longtime lead to other credible news organizations that choose not to charge online,” Outing wrote.