We’ve seen this week 2 big events in the paywall industry:
- The New York time paywall fiasco
- Press+ / Journalism online being sold to RR Donnelley & Sons
For those interested in content monetization, paywalls, and subscriptions/freemium strategies, these two provide a lot of interesting insights.
First, the NYT
The New York Times is said to have invested $40M in building it paywall technology, and to be fair, it delivers a pretty complex solution:
- Free articles up to a given threshold (in their case 20)
- Takes into account incoming traffic sources (Google vs Facebook vs Twitter etc), and adjusts the free counter
- Manages single and multiple user sessions, if you come the same day or read the same articles on different days. There are most certainly some other bells and whistles that we missed.
But why did they create such a complex system? The answer seems to be to keep incoming traffic from valuable referral sources in order to keep the advertising revenues and site indexing, while starting to charge subscriptions to users and generate incremental revenues.
Yet, by creating such a complex piece of software, the New York Times teams have failed to deliver the most basic functionality of a paywall: protect content to create an incentive to pay for it.
There are many loopholes in the system, and to avoid offended our NYT friends, we focused here are the 3 main ones:
2- Twitter mentions automatically point to articles, so you can always access via Twitter
3- Juggle between devices (PC, Mac, iPhone, Android) and browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome) and you can access hundreds of articles instead of just 20.
And all these hacks were already in place before the paywall actually even started….