The Media Oxpecker: Paywall Edition

march 18, 2011  02:00 pm
Every Friday we round up media & tech industry news you may have missed while you were busy trying to understand which NYT subscription option is best for you.

The Paywall

The New York Times unveiled the details of its much-anticipated paywall yesterday, and in less than the time it takes to count to 20 articles, observers felt compelled to weigh in:

  • Cory Doctorow says that "news is a commodity" and complains that the paywall will make it harder for him to link to stories.

  • But CJR's Lauren Kirchner retorts that "Journalism is not mere 'information'; it is a product, created by people at some expense."

  • Jack Shafer says that the pricing structure is so complicated, "[I'll] have to get out my calculator to figure out which orifice I'm getting screwed in." But he also argues that the paywall doesn't have to be perfect so long as it increases the Times' revenues appreciably.

  • That will be a tall order according to Felix Salmon, who points out that developing the paywall cost the Times upward of $40 million, so in order for this experiment to make financial sense, the Times will have to recoup that amount PLUS the digital advertising revenue it will lose because of the decreased traffic.

    He also notes that under the Times' labyrinthine pricing structure, "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."

  • But hold on, because Amy Webb says that the Times "made a wise move" in offering different pricing options, and after being blown away by her presentation in San Francisco, I'm hesitant to disagree with anything Webb says regarding the internet. Ever.

  • Ken Doctor dropped more of his newsonomic-knowledge on all of us.

  • Due to the fact that Twitter referrals don't count towards the 20 article per month limit, some observers predicted that it would only be a matter of time before someone created a Twitter account that simply tweeted out links to every article. Sure enough, @FreeNYT stepped onto the scene yesterday and as of this writing, already has over 2,200 followers.

  • So let's recap: No one knows how this will turn out! Your odds of building the perfect NCAA bracket are slightly higher than your ability to predict whether this experiment will be successful.

    In fact, even after the success/failure of the NYT paywall, people still won't agree on why it was or wasn't successful and what it means for media outlets that don't have $40 million to spend on developing a paywall.

    In Non-Paywall Related News

  • A Portland-area coffee shop owner gave ammo to Groupon critics this week, describing her Groupon experience as "the single worst decision I've ever made as a business owner."

  • That won't be a problem for Massachusetts restaurants seeking to promote their happy hour specials now that the state has ruled that companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial are not allowed to offer discounted drinks. Boston Weekly Dig publisher Jeff Lawrence tells us that this is "HUGE."

  • The AP says that newspaper ads sunk to a 25-year low in 2010.

  • Is Google launching its own social network? (Spoiler: No.)

  • was acquired by Canadian magazine publisher St. Joseph Media. We wonder how Torontoist publisher Ken Hunt's gonna feel with . . . oh, nevermind.

  • Twitter released an update which gives users the option to make HTTPS the default setting. You should probably go do that now. Seriously.

  • Former L.A. Weekly and SF Weekly-ite Alexia Tsotsis does NOT appreciate being told by AOL to turn down the snark.

  • In the unlikely event that you ever have to write up a job description for an Audience Development Manager, here's a guide.

  • A jury ordered Minnesota blogger John Hoff to pay $60K to a man who was fired because of a blog post which, accurately, linked the man to a mortgage fraud case.

  • We'll wrap up the week with an excerpt from David Carr's appearance on Charlie Rose this week, in which he answered yet another one of Rose's questions about the death of print:
    I think that going forward the print version of newspapers will be an expensive, luxury artifact, that is seen as something of a status symbol to carry around. It’ll be more lushly produced, but it will not be the primary delivery of content. Right now, we put the white paper out, so we can get the green paper back. That’s our business model, right?

    And I think more and more, as we get readers to pay for it -- not subscriptions, which is a terrible word, but applications, which is a sexy and wonderful word -- the more and more we get them involved, the better and better the business model gets. The problem is, we’re going to have a lot of competitors coming in that don’t have those legacy costs attached to them.

    (Previously: The AOL/HuffPo merger, using Facebook's comment plug-in, SEO tricks to avoid, and more . . .)