The popular New York Times will no longer be free to read online, according to an official communique on Thursday. The paywall will be turned on at NYTimes.com on March 28. The move will affect readers in the US and around the world.
“This move is an investment in our future,” Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, said in his annual State of The Times remarks. “It will allow us to develop new sources of revenue to support the continuation of our journalistic mission and digital innovation, while maintaining our large and growing audience to support our robust advertising business. And this system is our latest, and best, demonstration of where we believe the future of valued content — be it news, music, games or more — is going.”
Beginning March 28, the New York Times readers will only be able to read 20 articles per month for free. Once readers click on their 21st article, they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages — $15 every four weeks for access to the Web site and a mobile phone app, $20 for Web access and an iPad app or $35 for an all-access plan. Users will be able to pay via PayPal or credit card. The company launched digital subscriptions in Canada Thursday to “fine-tune the customer experience” before the wider rollout.
As exciting as this may sound for the New York Times, they can forget the idea of engaging with the widest possible audience. As long as news outlets like Reuters and Associated Press distribute news free online, there will be always alternatives to paid subscriptions. Sure, the New York Times has many breaking stories, which are not available anywhere else in the first hour of publication or so. But this is the Internet – things cannot be kept behind walls for long – news spread, especially due to the rise of social networking. Soon, the New York Times will see its readers searching for news elsewhere.
Another question follows: if they turn on paid subscriptions, will they turn off advertising? My guess is no. With paid subscriptions, any newspaper only strengtheners its cash flow, but the bulk still comes from advertising. It remains a matter of debate whether the paper made a wise choice. Time will tell. In the meanwhile, enjoy the New York Times while you still can.