At the end of March, 2011, the New York Times implemented their new paywall, forcing freeloaders such as myself to start paying money for the content.
This concept wasn’t new. Slate had this way back in the day and abandoned it, the New York Times had a partial subscription model (Times Select, for access to their opinion pages) and dropped it, but it’s starting to make a comeback.
The Times of London set up a paywall, which decimated their readership numbers by 90%. People were extremely sceptical of this new approach too, including myself – it’s been a longstanding belief that you can’t make something ‘unfree’.
The catch with the NY Times’ new paywall is that it’s quite unrestrictive. If you arrive at an article as a referral from Google, Digg or another such site, then you don’t get pinged. If you have an account with them, then you get 20 free articles per month. That should be enough for me, I thought.
Wrong. It turned out I blasted through the 20 articles in 2 days. So I thought to myself, I’ll use the BBC as an alternative. The BBC is a very good website, but its news sources are a bit different, and its angle on life is decidedly British. Which is no surprise – the NY Times likes to tell me all about Basketball, but I’m ok with that. I also really like the opinion pages – their commentary is of a very high quality.
So there I was, wondering what I was going to do, when I got an email from them, offering a 50% discount for 6 months. SOLD!
So to my surprise, I am now a paying customer for something I used to get for free, and I don’t mind.
My thoughts on these things are still as follows:
- you can’t make something un-free and expect everyone to stick around
- if there is a free alternative, people will use that
- people will happily pay for something if they perceive* it to be of sufficiently higher quality or unobtainable elsewhere.