Home » Non-Fiction » N.Y. Times Scales Back Free Articles to Get More Subscribers

N.Y. Times Scales Back Free Articles to Get More Subscribers

2 December 2017

From Bloomberg:

The New York Times, seeking to amass more paid subscriptions in an era of non-stop, must-read headlines, is halving the number of articles available for free each month.

Starting Friday, most non-subscribers will only be able to read five articles rather than 10 before they’re asked to start paying. It’s the first change to the paywall in five years. A basic Times subscription, with unlimited access to the website and all news apps, is $15 every four weeks.

Scoops on the Trump administration’s scandals and sexual-harassment allegations in Hollywood have already contributed to a surge in Times subscriptions, which jumped 60 percent in September from a year earlier to 2.5 million. With demand for journalism “at an all-time high,” the Times decided this was the right moment to experiment with giving away less online content for free.

. . . .

[E]nticing casual readers to open their wallets raises a tricky question: Just how many free articles do you let them sample before requiring them to sign up?

The decision comes with trade-offs. By reducing the number of free articles, the Times will likely see a drop in traffic at the website, which could hurt ad revenue.

Levien said that tightening the Times’ paywall would have a “modest impact” on its digital advertising business, which increased 11 percent last quarter from a year earlier. The increase failed to offset the continued decline in print ad sales, which fell 20 percent.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg


24 Comments to “N.Y. Times Scales Back Free Articles to Get More Subscribers”

  1. Then they’ll have to start churning out something that other sites don’t have that readers think they want.

    $195 a year is twice what I pay for Amazon prime and I get quite a bit from prime, unlike the rehashed twits and click-bait headlines.

    They’re asking too much for too little and are surprised so few bother with them any more.

  2. I subscribed — briefly — but unsubscribed quickly when I saw that I’d get a pop-up ad every time I came to the site. The pop-up was asking me to subscribe even though I already had, and I was permanently signed in.

  3. I have been greatly saddened by the deterioration of journalist objectivity at the NY Times. Scoops, yes, but very biased writing. Needless to say, I will not be subscribing and will happily skip their articles.

    My local newspaper (The Orange County Register) runs NY Times articles, among others. Often I am reading along in a supposedly hard-news story when I think, Why am I reading news analysis/commentary in the middle of this? It must be a NY Times story. And it almost always is.

    I used to work for The Associated Press in Los Angeles and always strove for as much fairness and objectivity as possible. There is definitely a place for opinion and news analysis in a newspaper or news site, but not for slanting articles presented as factual. The line between responsible journalism and opinion/slanted blogsites becomes blurred and often indistinguishable.

    Interestingly, in junior high school, I took a class in bias in news reporting (we had a wonderful social studies teacher). What I learned there has stuck with me for more than half a century. I wish journalism students today had the same training and adherence to truth. I’m sure some do. They don’t appear to work at the NY Times.

    I realize some people will argue that “responsible journalism” requires manipulating the average reader to the truths subscribed to by whoever runs the newspaper/site. A brief study of media history, including the philosophy of Josef Goebbels, will show the pitfalls.

    • Another problem with tightening the free articles limit is it increasingly means the NYT is simply preaching to the choir. It only has influence on those willing to pay for it’s increasingly strident opinions (or willing to overlook them). This in turn means that only articles that appeal to true believers will be written and anything not conforming to the group think must be avoided or risk alienating subscribers.

      That leaves a huge opportunity for lean journalism that offers itself for free (advertising supported). That’s why alternative sites are growing in influence.

  4. News, it’s always been propaganda though in the past it was less blatant.
    I think I prefer modern journalism anyway, at least now I can see exactly which flavour of propaganda and being subjected to, and who is funding and supporting it.
    Objectivity is a myth.

  5. Feel free to delete this post if it offends anyone.

    The count of articles you read is based on the cookie used by the NYTimes. I routinely delete all cookies each week, thus reseting the count to zero articles read.

    When I’m doing massive web surfing I will delete all cookies a couple of times each day. You would be surprised how various cookies interfere with each other, slowing the web harvest down.

    • I have my browser set to store cookies for “the current session only”. NYT is always available to me, but when I subscribed it was to support the journalism, not because of the limited number of articles per month — just as I subscribe to WaPo and contribute to the Guardian. If NYT hadn’t been foisting the pop-ups on me, I would have remained a subscriber. I don’t find fault with any paper’s perceived bias. I can tell the difference between opinion and hard news, and opinion pieces are clearly identified.

    • When viewing in Chrome, you can right click on the link to the article and hit “Open link in incognito window”. The new window has effectively a reset counter on articles viewed.

      • The same applies to the WP, Economist, and other newspapers. Their paywall tech is strictly 20th century vintage.
        On the other hand, broadcast news sources generally don’t bother or simply draw a full line between what is and isn’t paywalled. (All ESPN news is free, while only some commentary and analysis is free. And what is paywalled is always paywalled. No easy hacks there.)

        Some sources try to steer you to their apps but I pass on those. There’s no telling where that code comes from.

      • Wow! Thank you!

  6. We’re being conditioned to surf the web more efficiently. Many of these paid sites will say “I see you’re using a popup blocker.” I move to the next tab. I almost never look at any popup other than to find the little “x.” I understand there are many fine organizations that depend on that income but my monthly subscription dollars are limited. As soon as you ask me to take extra steps to view content, I move on.

    That’s why I don’t use popups on my site for email signups, etc. I’ve heard from too many people that they’re a “turnoff.”

    • I use AdBlock. When I pop into a site that complains about the blocker, I pause it, then refresh, then unpause the blocker. They only check when you enter, not once you are in the page reading.

  7. The NYT will surely generate more revenue, but will have fewer readers. We might ask about their internal analysis. How many readers are they willing to lose to gain one paying subscriber?

  8. bias (see also, liberal bias)- noun – a journalistic requirement to report discomfitting facts about politicians you like.

    • Journalistic bias isn’t just political.

      There is cultural (snob appeal) bias, geographic bias, anti-tech bias, anti-business bias (both generalized (which can be political) and company-specific (which isn’t, generally).

      It has long been known that in NYC and DC media circles happen can do no wrong (even when blatantly breaking federal law) and Microsoft, Amazon, and pretty much every other tech company can do no right. (Of course, Apple’s $2B a year in Ad buys has nothing to do with that, right?

      Or that Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all have significant as businesses of their own.)

      Disney movies can suck rivets and get good reviews while every other studio (Especially WB and Fox get ripped for just eating to show up.)

      The bias is everywhere.
      It has been everywhere.
      Only difference is, today, there are alternative channels that don’t belong to the media companies and the advertisers feeding them.

      “Freedom of the press belongs to those that own one.”

      Now everybody can be a publisher and many do. And bias is no longer a “settled consensus” foisted on the masses. Nowadays the masses can compare notes and see it’s not just them who sees a different reality and they can say, “Wait a minute, not so fast…”
      Or “Yes, he did it to me too…”

      Not just politics.
      Bias and double standards are found everywhere.

      • Darn autocorruption system.

        That should be “in NYC and DC media circles Apple can do no wrong” .

  9. And no-one will think to clear their cookies and reset the counter? … srsly?

  10. I’m probably in a minority here, but I’ve subscribed to the digital NYT for as long as it has been available– since the mid 90s, I guess. I still subscribe using my old AOL handle. I don’t see the deterioration that others see. I read several newspapers regularly, including the Washington Post, WSJ, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Trib, but I don’t watch much TV or listen to the radio much, and I dabble in social media only enough to get an idea of what is going on there.

    My political stance is pragmatic. I’ve seen as much stupid stuff in the private sector as I have seen in the government sector. There is little significant difference that I can see between a bad business and a bad bureaucracy. The more I learn, the more I prefer to criticize both. And occasionally praise both where it is due.

    Since Bezos took over, the WaPo has improved technically and I haven’t seen much change in the content. In my opinion, the WaPo digs politically deeper and harder, but I find the writing in the NYT is generally superior and the technical expertise of the NYT journalists, especially in the hard sciences, is superior. None of the others, in my opinion, equal the NYT and the WaPo in quality, although they do reflect different perspectives, which I value.

    As far as the NYT books section, whether I like it or not, New York publishers are influential in this writing business that I am trying to learn and I never have been able to get enough of my competition’s thoughts in any business I have been in.

    I don’t really care about tinkering with the NYT paywall because I am willing to pay the freight, but it seems to me that the WSJ has a much more restrictive wall than the NYT and they seem to be doing fine.

    • I agree that there’s no newspaper with as much in-depth coverage as the NYT. I’m a paid subscriber to both the Times and the Washington Post, and while the Post has more content about politics, the NYT covers a broader range of subjects. (I never fail to find a good recipe in their food section.)

      If we don’t support serious journalism, we will be left with “citizen amateurs” who are not fact-checked, or by Russian-paid trolls who insist that there’s a Pizza parlor in D.C. with a basement full of captive children.

    • I grew up reading the Chicago Tribune, and to a lesser extent, the Sun-Times. I subscribed to them in 2016 mostly to get full access to all the Chicago Cubs news. lol But I read the other stuff too. I’ve had WaPo since Amazon offered a year free on my Kindle Fire about three years ago, and ended up subscribing. I subscribed to the NYT after last year’s election–there were/are just too many articles I want to read without getting frustrated.

      My Tribune subscription, which I got at an introductory rate was set to renew unless I called to cancel. (nope, they wouldn’t let me email them. I think I could have written snail mail, but seriously?) I canceled several days before the deadline, but they still charged me and I think it was $16.95! I called again, got my refund, and ended up with another year for 99 cents a month. 😀

  11. FWIW — I appreciate the perspective of The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/international which doesn’t have a paywall and to which I have a standing donation.

  12. Why should anyone pay for NYT when they can read The Onion?

    At least The Onion is worth an occasional chuckle…

  13. you can have wapo through amz at reasoned price

    you can have nyt online through ed sub at $6 month for full daily. You have to be a teacher or student, or have family member who is a student or teacher.

  14. Seriously. Who cares? Copy the link, open a Private browser window. Paste the link.

    Surely they know its that simple, right? Very, very few media companies are willing to base their article count on IP addresses. They are putting cookies on your device to track your use.

    We have got to find another business model fast, or content journalism truly will be dead. But i dunno what its going to be.

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