NYTimes kills its paywall: "Google visitors make more dough than subscribers"

Master archivist Rick Prelinger sez, "As has been rumored, the NY Times will shortly stop charging for its "Times Select" columns, which had been locked behind a pay firewall.

"But the Times has also upheld the principle of public access to the public domain, and is opening its archives from 1851-1922, all of which are in the public domain. Archives 1987-present, though copyrighted, will also be freely accessible.

"This is a surprising and welcome development, and it's smart -- there's nothing like free content to draw eyeballs by the millions.

"Take the time to look at a late 19th-early 20th century issue of the paper -- every day is filled with dozens of little stories, each a potential plot for a movie, novel, or game."

What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com. These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.

"What wasn't anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others," Ms. Schiller said.

The Times's site has about 13 million unique visitors each month, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, far more than any other newspaper site. Ms. Schiller would not say how much increased Web traffic the paper expects by eliminating the charges, or how much additional ad revenue the move was expected to generate.

Link (Thanks, Rick!)


  1. No more Times Select? Yippee!

    It’s about time they realized that blocking key Opinion Editorials and other articles was a stupid, stupid, stupid idea.

  2. Ach! The day before I move back from China, they unblock the freaking service. Well, I guess it’s back to buying the paper edition anyway.

    To me, though, the most important aspect of the archive unlocking isn’t the “plots for movies” angle, although I’m a fiction writer myself… it’s the access that historians and researchers will have. Right now, they can get this stuff through a variety of sources, but I know more than one biographer who’s unattached to any institution, and doesn’t have 24/7 Lexis / Nexis or what have you. Letting the little guy get a crack at the archives democratizes our understanding of ourselves. There’s no replacement for sitting down at the dining room table and doing real grave-digging in the Paper of Record.

  3. The best part of that article is the link at the bottom:

    “Start your 14-day free trial to TimesSelect”

    Ah, irony.

  4. Hmmmm….

    “In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free.”

    So they’ve realized people won’t pay to read what Krugman has to say *today*, but they think there’s a substantial market for charging for 84 year old news stories?

  5. From the article:

    “What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others,” Ms. Schiller said.

    I’m always amazed when business people would rather make statements that make them look incredibly stupid (see above) than admit their business plans were a crock.

  6. Hey, a lot of people have paid just to be able to read what Krugman’s saying.

    I wondered, when they first came out with that firewall, whether they understood that it meant they would cease to be the newspaper of record. I’m glad they’ve seen the light.

  7. It is astonishing to me that a newspaper, which generates almost all of its money via advertisements, takes so many years to figure out that the same model they use for print will work on the web! Newspaper revenues are all about circulation numbers for ads; that’s why the price is so low. It’s good to see that they finally figured this out. Hopefully the Wall Street Journal will follow suit soon…

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