Killing the Pass-along: Slate's Jack Shafer on the New York Times Imminent Paywall

Slate media writer Jack Shafer assess what little we now know about the New York Times’ plan to install a metered paywall on its hugely popular Web site, NYTimes.com.

According to a memo from Times publishers, the site will allow nonsubscribers a certain amount of free article views per month before shutting off access to full articles and asking for some sort of payment or subscription.

The plan is similar to once in practice at the Financial Times. And like the Financial Times paywall, there’s likely to be lots of ways around the New York Times’ paywall and — take note amateur hackers — Shafer spells out most of them in his Slate article.

But whatever the Times does, the question all publisher must ask themselves is this:

… [I]s deterring readers in the New York Times Co.’s best interest? Newspaper publishers have traditionally encouraged free riders. Every newspaper or magazine rate sheet I’ve ever seen crows to advertisers about the phenomenal pass-along rate of their paid circulation. One paying customer, they’ll boast, equals three or four or even five readers! Now comes the Web era and the publishers suddenly want to exile “pass-along” readers?

Journalism doesn’t have an access crisis. It has, like Shafer points out, an advertising crisis. Hm. That sounds familiar.

More on the Paywall

Felix Salmon thinks NYT will offer 15-20 free stories per month, with subscriptions of between $15/month, $99/year [Reuters]

A metered system allows the Times to “maintain not only visibility on the Web, but also still participate in selling a mass audience to advertisers.” [NYTimes' Media Decoder Blog]

Washington Post Publisher: No paywall for us [NPR]