Canadians first to pay for New York Times’ free news

A social media loophole still allows you to get to articles for free


When the U.S. media rolls out new services on the Internet, they often hit Canada last. Not this time.

The New York Times‘ confusing new paywall went live in Canada yesterday, 11 days before the rest of the world will get it.  It seems we’re to be their guinea pigs.  How cool to finally be ahead of the curve!  If you missed the baffling details of their new subscription scheme, here’s how it breaks down:

  • You get 20 free articles a month
  • Once you go over, you hit the paywall.  Pay or go home (or, y’know, go to any other online newspaper).
  • Payment is $15 for 4 weeks of web and smartphone app access
  • or $20 for web plus tablet app access
  • or $35 for everything (shouldn’t that be $25?)
  • or pay nothing, if you get to the NYT article you want through Google news or through a link on Facebook or Twitter.

Yes, that last part is for real; the Times doesn’t want to lock itself out of the benefits of social media link-sharing, so they’ve purposefully left a side-door open that allows readers to get to any article for free, just so long as they’re referred to it from Google, or from some goof’s Twitter account. (In an unrelated matter, I’d like to announce my new Twitter feed, @ShewShorkShimes.)

So who’s going to pay for this? And why will readers pay now when they ignored the Times‘ last two failed attempts to throw up a paywall?

I hate to dump on the Gray Lady (ew!), and I generally feel that the Times understands the Internet better than most papers. Their interactive features are incredible!  But this just makes no sense.

A free follow from @ShewShorkShimes to the first commenter who can explain to me what the Times is thinking here.


Canadians first to pay for New York Times’ free news

  1. What are they thinking?

    They're thinking that a tiny audience who pay real cash will be worth more than the miniscule advertising revenue they generate from online numbers.

    It's hard to sell advertising when you can't tell your clients who's seeing the ads, or if they're even in the same continent as your advertiser. Whereas a hundred thousand people willing to pay $500 a year for otherwise free media will attract a more select group of advertisers, and allow the Times to offer great demographics on their readership. Less ads, more targeted?

    Just like I can play coin dozer on the free app, or give a buck to itunes to play it wothout the ads…

    • They can tell very well what continent viewers are on, and who their viewers are. In fact the NYT dynamically generates many of its ads to target people based on exactly those parameters.

  2. This didn't work the first time they tried it, so I don't know why they're doing it again.

  3. I love how when you move from the $15 plan to the $20 plan you actually LOSE access to the content on your smartphone. So, it's basically "give us $5 more and we'll take away one of the things you're paying for and replace it with something else". WTF?

    Also, what's with charging different rates for the same content depending upon the device you're using to access the content? As I read somewhere (can't remember who wrote this I'm afraid) that's like if music publishers asked you to pay one price if you want to listen to the song through headphones and a DIFFERENT price if you want to listen through speakers. It's ridiculous.

    I also like Felix Salmon's breakdown of the implications of the math: "The message being sent here is weird: that access to the website is worth nothing. Mathematically, if A+B=$15, A+C=$20, and A+B+C=$35, then A=$0".

    And Salmon also points out the fact that for New Yorkers: "a print subscription which gets you the newspaper only on Sundays costs $19.60 every four weeks — and it comes with free access to the web and tablet versions of the newspaper. Which creates the slightly odd proposition that if you want to use the NYT's iPad app, you're marginally better off subscribing to the print newspaper on Sundays and throwing it away unread than you are just subscribing to the app on its own".

    The NYT would have been better off taking the $40 million they used to come up with this plan and flushing it down a toilet.

  4. This creates an interesting situation where the Murdoch papers + the NYT will be charging. The Guardian (backed by its trust fund) and the BBC (backed by the UK government) will not be.

    I don't necessarily expect content to be free. But what I have heard is that 75 – 85% of a newspapers cost is paper + distribution. This eliminates those costs, but the subscription price is still too high (in my opinion).

    The great advantage of the web is that it will allow the NYTimes to be one of the few papers of record in the entire english speaking world. Are they going to price themselves out of that game?

  5. Damn you for linking to that rock paper scissors app, I had stuff to do this afternoon!

  6. Oh Lordy. The fact that you can get to it through google… this tactic has been tried before by numerous organizations. It doesn't work. The people who link to the articles will catch on and use google instead.

    It also means that you won't be charging the people that know about the google thing, but you'll be happy to take the money from the rubes who don't know about it.

    Not a good idea.

  7. So, if I care to peruse the daily content in the NYT, all I need to do, instead of bookmarking nytimes.com, is enter "New York Times [today's date]" in Google News?

    NYT may not make a killing. But they will develop a magnificent sucker list for their marketing department.

  8. I have two theories:

    1) What they're doing is simply making it so confusing and expensive to get their digital content that (they hope) people will just return to buying the dead-tree version. The 20 free articles per month & Google News & social media links are just their version of a "free trial".

    2) This gigantic Lincoln promo they've got going on right now, where Lincoln is "paying" for 200,000 people to get free access for a month, will be a constant in the future. You can either pay for ad-free digital content, or some corporate sponsor will be paying for you to access it, and thus be peppering you with ads, and probably have access to your e-mail address, demographic info, etc.

  9. I think this is pretty obvious. The paywall isn't for you. They know you aren't going to pay, chances are you don't read 20 articles there a month, and if you did, you still wouldn't be paying for it, you would find a work around.

    Some number of rich middle aged white dudes with iphones will not. They will randomly hit the paywall notice, and start subscribing. How many rich white dudes have iphones and would never think of going to @freenyt? I don't know, but it's probably non-zero.

    Why does this paywall apply to the internet instead of just Mobile devices, I really don't know… maybe they think they can get some corporate/library license as well?

    Yeah, that's probably it, public libraries can pay the 'discounted' 15 bucks a month, or probably work out a deal where it's 10 bucks a computer in the library with internet access.

  10. for all the discontented readers who won't cough up $20 a month, I ask what if the price was $2.00 per month, and also if there was a decent low-cost micro-payment system on the web (and NOT the ever-gouging visa/mastercrap) then we could all benefit from digital technology really dropping the costs for things, instead of the Times's outdated sticking to overcharging as a way-of-life.

  11. Makes sense, there's NO MONEY in online advertising. Google actually loses from it's ads… oh wait no, I have it backwards.

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