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The New York Times and the Battle for Free Content

  • By Gunter Jameson
  • Published 05/2/2011
  • Writing

Anyone in the media and news business knows that newspapers are dying rapidly. Even big, stalwart publishers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are having trouble funding their papers and getting readers to buy their products-especially when so much of it is free online. And that’s really the problem. As technology has moved forward, it has been easier and easier to get free content online rather than having to pay for a physical copy. Now the newspaper industry is falling apart. Most papers don’t know what to do, but the New York Times is trying to make some money back by cutting off all those freeloaders who read online by creating a pay-for-content model-online subscriptions. Pay for News Most newspapers across the country offer their content for free online, but on March 25, the New York Times will begin charging premium subscription fees and start cutting off free readers. People who only read a few NYT articles a month won’t be affected. The “paywall” only starts after you’ve read 20 articles online. That is, after you’ve read 20 articles in a month at the NYT website, you will no longer be able to access NYT stories or you’ll have to pay to get more. The Loopholes However, the NYT paywall plan has some loopholes. For instance, any “top” news story will be free and will not count toward your 20 articles for the month. As well, anyone who comes to a NYT article from Facebook or Twitter won’t have that article counted against their 20 for the month. In addition, smart people have already begun to create hacks like The Daily Indexed, where any user can access any article from the iPad app “The Daily” (owned by the NYT) for free without paying a subscription. So all we have to do is wait for someone to RT every NYT article through a Twitter account, and we’ve all got access behind the wall. Betting

The bottom line is that newspapers are desperate. But big newspapers have some leverage. They know their content is premium compared to every other local-yokel paper in the US, so they feel they can get people to pay for it. While it is true that a number of internet startups begin by offering free services, only to offer premium packages later on for a fee. The biggest killer for any internet startup is to begin charging for something that was previously free-which is exactly what the NYT is doing. However, the NYT is betting that people will pay anyway. Meanwhile, someone has already created @FreeNYT on Twitter.

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