I’m really surprised that the number of subscribers to the NYT online is this high. Because of all the paywalls out there, the one guarding the NYT is the most porous and easiest to circumvent (just delete your cookies or use a separate browser). Forbes:
In its second quarter earnings announcement, the Times Co. included some attention-getting figures for its new digital subscription program, which launched in March. Since then, the paper has amassed some 224,000 digital-only subscribers. Another 57,000 subscribe to replica editions delivered on e-readers like the Kindle and the Nook. On top of that, there are the 100,000 people getting e-subscriptions sponsored by Lincoln.
Since the Times is in the paid content vanguard, it’s a little hard to come up with appropriate benchmarks to compare that to. But here’s one way of looking at it: The most popular digital access package is also the cheapest, the $15-per-month website and smartphone package. If all of its paid digital subscribers were on that tier rather than the more expensive ones, the result would be $40 million per year in new circulation revenues (although Apple, Amazon, Google etc. get some piece of that.)
Again, the smartphone package is not needed. I find the mobile NYT site, http://mobile.nytimes.com, is better than the iPhone app and with the mobile site in Safari, you can delete your cookies when you hit the 20 free articles and start all over again.
To be fair, the WSJ paywall isn’t much better. But, it’s a little more cumbersome as you have to copy the text or headline of the subscriber-only article and paste it into Google to get the article for free.
And I’ve been a subscriber to both the old paywall for the NYT and the WSJ (print and digital) in the past. The NYT angered me when they dropped the pay service (oddly enough), while the WSJ kept trying to hike my subscription rate while offering plans at a quarter of the cost for new subscribers. Hey, I’m willing to pay for what I read, but I’m not going to be the sucker financing everyone else.
What’s clear is that neither of these major papers really has found the right balance between making people pay for what they read and not losing clicks from search-engine traffic to boost online ad sales.