Readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of the NY Times. Some people would say that I am more of a Wall Street Journal guy, and in fact I started reading the NY Times some 25 years ago because I wanted to understand the more liberal perspective. Over the years the NY Times has gotten better and I might pick up the Wall Street Journal every couple of weeks. In short, the opinion pieces in the NY Times are well written and thought provoking, those in the WSJ just sound like screaming. I am not sure if it is the owner coming through or if it was always like that but now I rarely read the WSJ Opinion pages. I suppose they would be a good source for humor if it didn’t make me feel just plain depressed about our country.
Anyway, back to the NY Times and its pay-wall. Hard to tell I know but that is what I am writing about in this post. Like I said, I am a big fan of the Paper of Record and would give them money just because I appreciate them. Dave Winer and Jay Rosen had an interesting point in their Rebooting the News podcast last week about putting shortened links in Twitter that go to the NY Times. It seems that some people do not like to be surprised by shortened links in Twitter to the NY Times because it tricks them into using up one of their 20 free articles per month. This could produce a trend in Twitter etiquette to indicate NYT before the shortened link so people could decide in advance if they wanted to spend one of their 20 articles per month before clicking. I know I used to send out dozens of links to the NY Times before the paywall and have not sent out any since. I also never link to the WSJ – because I don’t want my readers to link to a subscription screen.
Dave Winer goes on in the podcast to say that NYT Columnist Paul Krugman negotiated that his column would not be hidden behind any paywall ever. Krugman posted on his NYT blog on 3/18 that his readers can always link to his column through twitter without “spending” one of the 20 free articles per month. I do think the columnists are the most important factor in this debate. About a year ago I predicted that the paywall would hasten the decline of the NY Times and I still think so. I also still think we will know the NY Times is in big trouble when the columnists leave for more visibility elsewhere. Again, I love the NY Times so I don’t want to see this happen.
Since the paywall started on 3/28 I have done a little experiment on one subject – myself. I have tried to go without my favorite new source for a while. Well, not completely cold turkey, but not subscribing. I wanted to see what it would be like for someone who was an occasional reader of the paper, but not a subscriber. I learned that there are a bunch of great news sources out there that I never had taken the time to visit. I put the Reuters and AP apps on my iPad – so anytime I wanted to make sure I was not missing something big I could scan the headlines. I started going to Al Jazeera English more often. The Washington Post and the Guardian web sites all got more regular visits from me. I spent more time looking at my RSS feeds. None of these captured my attention like the NY Times used to. In fact, I think I have a better sense for the news without the NY Times. My newspaper route changed. Before I went to the NY Times, and ran out of time before I went anywhere else. Now I take in a number of sources – sometimes including the NY Times, and sometimes not. I also spent more time with one of my other favorite publications, The Economist. When it comes to thoughtful essays it is hard to beat the Economist. I can never get all of the way through one issue before the next one hits – so more time with this publication is a good thing for me.
So to sum it up, I can absolutely live without the NY Times. So here is My New Newspaper Route:
- Scan the headlines at Reuters and AP for headlines – only rarely do I read beyond the first paragraph
- Scan The Guardian, and sometimes the Washington Post – again for headlines
- Scan Al Jazeera English and maybe read something
- Go to my RSS feeds and read a few things
- Go to The Economist and read a few things – every few days
- Go to the NY Times and read the columns – every few days; also I have returned to buying the NY Times Sunday edition in printed form at the store and reading it all week – like I used to 5 years ago.
It is interesting to note that my perception of the NY Times paywall impacted my behavior more than the reality. I was never actually able to hit my 20 article limit. One time I got the warning that I only had 5 left and I tried like crazy to get it to stop me at 20 and could not. Maybe it is because I have multiple machines, stopped signing into the web page (as part of my experiment), or who knows what. Either way, the paywall never actually stopped me from reading, I stopped me from reading.
After all of this, today I signed up for the full digital subscription. Like I said, I really value the NY Times and I want them to be successful and according the the NY Times, over 100,000 new digital subscribers have signed up. The special deal gives me full access for a month for 99 cents. So I am not helping them very much! After that it goes to $35 per month. I don’t know how long I will last at over $400 per year unless my paper route changes back to the NY Times at the top of the list and I stop getting all of my news from those other places.