Tuned In

The New York Times Celebrates Paywall’s Birthday, By Fortifying It

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Right about a year ago, journalists and people who obsess about journalism were talking about the New York Times‘ online paywall, its rules, its porousness, its ethics and its chances for success. We’re almost a year into the wall’s existence and it’s still there. The New York Times is still there. It has, it says, almost half a million digital subscribers. And the paper has not lost its relevance or its online presence.

To celebrate, the Times announced today, it’s going to make the paywall a little taller. Or tighten up the holes in it. Or shorten the amount of time you’re allowed to pass through it for free—OK, all wall metaphors break down eventually, so the upshot is: the 20 free articles you used to be allowed per month will be cut to 10. It appears that the rest of the original policy—which allows free access for print subscribers and includes exceptions for search-engine and social-media links—stays in place.

Whether the paywall is the savior of the Times, or of journalism—or if it’s sufficient compensation for the secular decline in print media generally—I can’t say without knowing the details of the Times’ overall business picture, but the new policy suggests they at least have enough confidence in the paywall to tighten its restrictions without fear it will isolate the paper or drive away too many readers, if they weren’t driven away already. (And/or: it feels that cutting back the free reads will persuade more casual readers to finally subscribe.)

A year after the change, I wonder: has the Times paywall affected your habits? Did you subscribe? Have you been able to read enough through links from elsewhere? Has it led you to turn to other news sources? And will the Times’ cutting its freebies in half change your habits any further?

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