How Much Demand Will There Be for Circumventing New York Times Paywall?

NYTimes.com, fully free for a few more days

A Forbes.com article by Jeff Bercovici discusses the New York Times‘s plan to shut down a rogue Twitter feed called FreeNYTimes, which is meant to circumvent the Times‘s upcoming metered model (some people call it a paywall). As Bercovici writes:

It’s clever, but it’s not kosher. “We have asked Twitter to disable this feed as it is in violation of our trademark,” says a Times spokeswoman. She adds that the paper has been monitoring and has already blown the whistle on other violations. … I also asked her about NYTClean, a bookmark that defeats the paywall with the aid of four lines of code. The response: “As we have said previously, as with any paid product, we expect that there will be some percentage of people who will find ways around our digital subscriptions. We will continue to monitor the situation but plan no changes to the programming or paywall structure in advance of our global launch on March 28th.”

Well, of course I clicked on the FreeNYTimes feed to see how many people are following it. (Yes, I have a bit of interest in Twitter followship.) And I have to say, I was quite surprised by the number I saw.

Care to take a guess? Go ahead, guess; don’t look at the sentence below.

Okay. As I type these words, at around 6 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, the FreeNYTimes feed has a whopping 152 followers. Am guessing this doesn’t say anything too meaningful about demand for free NYTimes.com content, but still, I’m surprised.

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  1. brian warden says:

    I think this is a great example of the type of article you would not be allowed to post if you were still at NYT. Glad you moved!

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  2. Carl Natale says:

    I’m more interested in whether this says anything meaningful about the NYT paywall. Specifically the pricing structure. Is the NYT encouraging the workarounds with their exceptions to paying for access?

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  3. Kate says:

    I think the reason it has so few followers is because the paywall isn’t up yet. I’m not happy about it, I think the paywall is over-priced. (I actually paid for the TimesSelect package way back when, because $7/month for premium content was a good value for me.) However, I got an email this week saying that for the rest of the year I can keep my free access on my account (registered since 2002) as part of a sponsor package by Lincoln. In 2011, I may start looking for ways to circumvent the paywall though.

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  4. ALAN D says:

    I could not believe NYTimes is so stupid!! In order to save some money, vast majority of Americans willing to do anything,
    remember after thanksgiving sale started at 4:00 in the morning, thousands people waiting overnight in our store
    to get the 35% off sale under subzero temp.
    Nytimes forget one thing, more than 75% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, nevertheless, many of them still can’t secure the very basic human needs, food and shelter, here comes 1 in 7 Americans on food stamp and 18% of all US homeowners are in or near foreclosure:
    Under those circumstances, Do any people believe Americans going to buy news, not likely.

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  5. kyle says:

    Nobody from generation y and z really reads the NYT even when it is free. Good bye NYT.

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  6. Mike B says:

    I have a strong suspicion that the NY Times has chosen to adopt an “Airline” (or Magazine) pricing model that ultimately becomes effectively “pay what you wish” only with much more hassle and obfuscation. Yes, people with more money than time will pay the outrageous full price for the service which comes out to $200-700 per year. This probably makes up a sizable fraction who use the paper as their primary news source as well as people who already get a print subscription. People who use Google News or Digg as their primary source of news have signaled that they don’t put much value on any single news outlet so they will get their articles for free. Between these two extremes the NY Times will begin to offer discounts.

    Anyone who has ever purchased a magazine subscription knows that only morons pay the cover price. Search the web and it is trivial to find some offer somewhere for free subscriptions. Buy some flowers, free subscription. New credit card, free subscription. Then there are tones of other deals that offer discounts. Students, old folks, government employees, credit union members, etc all qualify for drastic discounts for print subscriptions, often up to 80% off. Finally there are the official discounts offered by the publication itself. Sign up with this special offer get half off. Sign up for X years and get 75% off. Sign up TODAY and get 6 months free. I suspect that the Times will wholeheartedly embrace such pricing. Their marginal cost is zero so every additional dollar they can earn is a win. They will simply keep hitting people with lower and lower prices until they bite.

    How do I know this well they have already begun. Both my friend and myself have already accepted free subscriptions for the rest of 2011 based on a promotion sponsored by Lincoln cars. I don’t know how we were selected for this, be it random or because we post a lot of comments (making us “content providers” the Times would not want to lose), but I have no doubt that every year I will find some way to extend my free or discounted membership infinitely.

    Personally I wanted to be able to pay for NY Times, but I would have much preferred a general low rate with limited loopholes. My willingness to pay is about $50-$100 a year. Any more and I will begin to investigate ways to get it for free or various discounts including splitting access with friends. However the Times probably calculated that they could hook in most of its wealthy readership with the full price and the vacuum up the remainder with discounts and freebies. It this a good strategy? Probably. Am I disappointed that a major media corporation rejected the opportunity to embrace the small payment from large groups business model, definitely.

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