The New York Times, the third largest newspaper in the U.S. behind The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, recently announced its adding digital subscriptions later this month.
The newspaper will make 20 stories available for free on its website including slideshows, videos and other forms of content. Beyond that, readers will be forced to pony up to access The Times' digital content. At the price of $15 per every four weeks, users will get unlimited access to NYTimes.com plus the smartphone app.
The new digital subscriptions will kick in on March 28. If users want to go further than the $15 plan, for $20 every four weeks, they can get full website access and the iPad app. For $35 per every four weeks, they get full website access plus the phone and iPad apps.
Today marks a significant transition for The Times, an important day in our 159-year history of evolution and reinvention. Our decision to begin charging for digital access will result in another source of revenue, strengthening our ability to continue to invest in the journalism and digital innovation on which our readers have come to depend. This move will enhance The Times' position as a source of trustworthy news, information and high-quality opinion for many years to come, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, said in a statement.
The move is not a full on paywall. Those who subscribe to New York Times home delivery will get all of the website content for free as well as the iPad and iPhone apps. Also, readers who access articles from search engines, blogs and social media will not have to pay for an article. Also, the frontpage articles will remain free.
Going to a paywall method is a huge risk for The New York Times. The only major US newspaper to have had any success is The Wall St. Journal. A recent study from Hitwise Intelligence, an online marketing analyst firm, found the British newspaper The Times of London lost significant readership when implementing a paywall with traffic to its website taking hits of up to 20-30 percent.
This is not the first attempted move to paid content by The New York Times. Back in 2005, the company tried to launch a pay per article format for non-paper subscribers. However, it only lasted two years as the company said too many people were running into the wall, and not going further.
Reactions from journalism analysts were mixed. One former Wall St. Journal publisher, Gordon Crovitz, told Business Insider that The New York Times will see a huge revenue boost with this move, to the tune of $100 million. However, David Cohn, founder of website Spot.us, told The Nieman Journalism Lab that The Times has a small margin for error in order for it to be succcesful.