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Paywalls and Internal Politics

January 24, 2011 13:30:00.000

The New York Times' new paywall just doesn't make much sense. Not the overall concept, just the specific implementation. Here's what they supposedly plan to do:

The person familiar with the matter said the Times has considered charging around $20 a month for the digital bundle and less than half that for the Web-only offering

But there's a problem with that approach, as Felix Salmon notes:

This strikes me as peculiar. The idea seems to be that if you want to use the NYT iPad app at all, that’ll cost you a hefty $240 per year, over and above the cost of the iPad itself. But if you want to read the nytimes.com website on your iPad, that’s probably free — and even if you’re in the minority of power users, it’ll still be less than half the price of the app. Essentially, the NYT is doing everything it can to drive its iPad-owning readers away from the app and towards the built-in browser.

Exactly - what would possess me to try their iPad app under this deal? Why not just stick with the website? If they want to attract me to a pay model (where the website is free until I cross a threshold), then they need to make it more attractive, not less.

This looks like the result of an internal political battle that the iPad backers at the Times lost. They get their app, but in a "guaranteed to lose" fashion. The website side will then point and laugh, and not lose any of their budget.

posted by James Robertson

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