The New York Times Paywall: New Coke?

So, after just retweeting several NY Times stories and thinking “take that, paywall,” I’m left wondering whether there’s a new Coke thing going on.  Does anyone believe it’s possible that the whole paywall thing is actually a bogus plan?

For those of you who don’t know, the New York Times is instituting a paywall whereby you can read a limited number of Times’ stories in any given month but to get more, you have to pay.  There are a few loopholes to the scenario, however.

  • If you’re a subscriber to the dead-tree version of the newspaper (and I am), you have unlimited access via the web or mobile.
  • If you come to an article via a social media link (e.g., Twitter, Facebook), you can access the article without regard to how many other articles you’ve already accessed.

Already there are innovators out there, coming up with ways around the paywall.  One Twitter user set up a feed that Tweeted all of the articles in the Times so that you could find all relevant links in one place.  Others are setting up Facebook groups.  The Times has responded by asking Twitter to take the feed down, although their objection was based on trademark misappropriation (the name included the Times’ name) and not on the basis of its content.  Of course, that’s the Times’s only recourse here.  It will be easy to reconstitute the feed via a defensible (and, I’m sure, highly retweeted) feed.

So, is this part of the Times’s strategy?  They knew the holes existed.  They knew people would exploit them in innovative ways.  So now, people are probably Tweeting Times’ stories way more than before.  I’ll bet their page views go up after the installation of the paywall.  So they’ll get some minor subscription money (from the suckers) but more importantly, they’ll preserve a few dead-tree subscribers (who now think they’re getting a better deal) and they’ll grow their page views because it’s now the forbidden fruit.


Are they that smart or devious?