Finally! The New York Times is coming out with its paid-for content strategy. A quick summary of the Gray Lady’s paywall plan: a monthly allotment of stories to be read for free and, above that, a flat fee for full access. Subscribers to the print version (including those who only get the Sunday paper) will have free access. According to the official press release, the new system will be launched in January 2011. For now, that’s all we know.
Why such weird timing? For the biggest online newspaper in the United States, announcing such a move just a week before the likely roll-out of the Apple Tablet is bizarre. OK, we get it, the New York Times won’t join other publishers aboard the Apple bandwagon. As I’m writing this, there are persistent rumors that big players such as Condé Nast, Harper Collins, McGraw Hill, Hachette could sign up — but not Time Inc., according to All Things Digital. Then, either The NYTimes is showing its fierce independence or it is hedging its bets by preparing its own offer, competing with a putative Apple publishing hub. According to New York Magazine, the Times is not joining Journalism Online (see previous Monday Note How to make readers pay for news), nor is it teaming up with the Wall Street Journal in its effort to pressure Google for a better deal. Another question: Why wait so long to deploy the NYT’s paywall? A year to build a digital subscription system sounds quite a long time.
Let’s throw some numbers at the “metered model” – as it is now referred to.
Which part of its audience does the Times actually target? Last November, the Times got 16,5m unique visitors and 2.98 sessions per month, according to Nielsen. As for the number of pages viewed by each visitor, we must rely on a more global figure, again from Nielsen: for the top US newspapers, an average of 43 page views per month (1). More