Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Mr. Editor, Tear This Pay Wall Down http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/business/media/18times.html?_r=1&hp&oref=login
The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight Tuesday night.
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.
It is particularly gratifying to see that the archives are open from 1987 onwards. That will be a tremendous asset to the public, bloggers especially.
The usual assumption would be that TimesSelect was a drag on revenue, but it actually seems to have been a financial success. The real reason for tearing down the pay wall was because open access provided an opportunity for more growth, an acknowledgement of the fact that significantly more traffic arrived at The Times via search engines than via the NYT website directly:
The Times said the project had met expectations, drawing 227,000 paying subscribers — out of 787,000 over all — and generating about $10 million a year in revenue.
“But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site, NYTimes.com.
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.
At any rate, as an experiment it certainly was valuable, because many other publications will certainly see the Times's decision and reassess their own strategies.
This will definitely make Kevin Drum happy.
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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.