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New York Times Announces Digital Subscriptions a.k.a Paywall

NY Times digital subscription

By Hannah Johnson

The New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. announced today the launch date and additional details of “digital subscriptions” for the New York Times — also known as a paywall. Digital subscriptions launched today for Canadian readers, which according to the announcement “will enable us to fine-tune the customer experience before our global launch.”

The global launch will take place on March 28. Readers will have access to 20 online articles a month for free. After that, you’ll have to pay. The “Top News” section of every app will remain free.

Sulzberger wrote that the launch of digital subscriptions “will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform.”

The big question is really whether or not a widely-read newspaper like the New York Times can succeed in converting readers into paying customers. Both The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have paywalls on their websites, but these papers could be seen as serving a niche audience, unlike the New York Times.

The Times of London and its Sunday Times of London launched their stringent paywall earlier this year with an all-or-nothing pricing structure that requires readers to pay for every article they want to access. NPR reported today:

The online audience for the two papers plummeted from 20 million monthly unique online readers to a little more than 100,000. There were only approximately 54,000 paying monthly digital subscribers. The Times of London called it a success in its early stages, but outsiders question that logic.

Many media companies and web publishers will be watching closely as the Times rolls out its new subscriptions. Monetizing online content has been a major challenge for many publishers, and if the New York Times can succeed, it could prompt other web publishers to follow suit with subscriptions of their own.

The Times digital subscription has three tiers: 1) online plus smartphone app for $15 every four weeks; 2) online plus tablet app for $20 every four weeks; and 3) unlimited online and app access for $35 every four weeks.

Print subscribers will receive either a discount on the digital subscription or free online access, depending on the level of the print subscription (daily, M-F, weekend only, Sunday only, etc.).

For more information, check out the digital subscription FAQ on the NY Times website.

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2 Comments

  1. John Crutcher
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    “Free, unlimited access is provided to all print subscribers, no matter what type of subscription you have (daily, weekday, Weekender, etc.). You’ll also qualify for free digital access if your home delivery is provided by a third party (rather than by The New York Times directly).”

  2. Hannah Johnson
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Hi John, thanks for the comment and for pointing out something that is unclear, not just in this article but also in the information provided by the NY Times.

    The information about digital subscriptions that the NY Times sent out today did, in fact, say that print subscribers will receive digital access for free. However, if you are a print subscriber and you log into you account right now and click through to the subscription options, then click on “learn more” next to each print subscription option, the pop-up window says that the subscription includes a “Discount on Digital Subscription.” Of course that could mean that it’s free, but it’s unclear.

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