Top 10 Reasons The New York Times is Really Putting up a Paywall

Today The New York Times made it official that they will be introducing a metered model starting in 2011. There is additional information in the NYTco press release, and Jim Romenesko and others have published the staff memo.

Since the NYT is giving themselves a year to work out the details before implementing the paid model, there will be plenty of time for everyone to speculate on what should and shouldn’t be done, and how spectacularly it will succeed or fail.

But instead of that, I’m going to to give you the (completely fabricated) inside scoop on why The New York Times is really putting up a paywall, in the form of a Top 10 list:

  1. Poisoning the cafeteria didn’t scare enough people into taking buyouts
  2. The executive bathroom in Rupert Murdoch’s “Evil Publishers” Lounge is pretty sweet
  3. They’re planning to launch their own portfolio of blogs that do nothing but aggregate their stories – seems to work for everyone else
  4. They’ve spent all their resources trying to brainstorm a witty comeback to that piece The Daily Show did on “aged news” last year
  5. Since they made the International Herald Tribune site disappear, why not their own?
  6. The metered system will pay for itself by randomly charging one user per day $10,000,000
  7. The editorial staff figures since hardly anyone will ever see their work, they can save time by skipping every other word
  8. In 10 years Google will control every piece of information on the planet anyway, so why not make a little cash while they can?
  9. Clicking their heels three times and saying “there’s no place like home” didn’t bring back the pre-Internet era
  10. Waiting a year leaves enough time for the entire industry to collapse, so they won’t have to actually come up a system that works

As Bill Maher would say, “I kid the Times” (and if you can’t joke a little about your own parent company, who can you joke about?). However my comedic talents are limited, so please bail me out by suggesting more reasons in the comments.

On a serious note, only time will tell if a paid model will position the NYT to be successful well into the future or if it will ultimately hurt more than help. Most likely the result will fall somewhere in between. But whether you agree with their approach or not, the point is they are trying to find something that works.

The reality is that the industry is being radically re-invented by new technology, and there are no easy answers out there. Coming up with a viable metered model that still allows a wide audience to discover and interact with the content – in the ways that they prefer – is just one step on a challenging road ahead. I wish them the best of luck, and look forward to seeing how things unfold.

For those interested in more actual information, NYTco. senior executives have answered a series of reader questions at: Talk to The Times: Answers About Charging Online


  1. Becky Chambers says

    I argue otherwise (The Humorist, take a nap).

    Your list gives Letterman a run any day. :) I, among others, retweeted it.

  2. says

    As an online publisher only, I already know that it is not just about News, as in Newspaper news. If we want the most up to date News, then Digg or even Twitter provide immediate News. We can probably say that Google and others will continue to provide information and news of events worldwide for those who search for it.
    We are watching the continuing rapid decline of newspapers and an old industry that is unable to adapt to the many aspects of online media. Their existing company structure will not support the support the abundance of free information. They will not be able to successfully monetise online news.
    The Sunday newspapers are still an enjoyable event and form part of some kind of sunday tradition. But paying to read the news online will be a disaster. It’s more difficult to read online. We read 25 percent more slowly with our heads up. The eyes don’t work correctly. Ask an optician and he will tell you why.
    I worked for more than 20 years in the UK textile industry and saw that industry move elsewhere. It happens.
    Newspapers and magazines survive through advertising and newspaper sales. The advertising has gone elsewhere and they want to charge for News?
    So Mr Murdoch and Co How are things in FairyLand?

  3. says

    Thanks for your comment Charles. I agree that changes in technology are causing users to develop new ideas about what news is and how they’d like to consume it. It’ll be interesting to see how things unfold in the next several years.

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