Thursday, March 17, 2011

New York Times announces that it will launch its metered paywall on March 28, free access up to 20 articles; will make in-app purchases available before June 30

Readers registered with the New York Times website were notified today via email of the newspaper's plans to implement their metered paywall. The new digital subscription protocol, which goes into effect on March 28, will limit online readers to 20 articles each month at no charge.

Here is the notice sent to registered readers in full:

Dear New York Times Reader,

Today marks a significant transition for The New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions. It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform. The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our Web site and on mobile applications.
This change comes in two stages. Today, we are rolling out digital subscriptions to our readers in Canada, which will enable us to fine-tune the customer experience before our global launch. On March 28, we will begin offering digital subscriptions in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

If you are a home delivery subscriber of The New York Times, you will continue to have full and free access to our news, information, opinion and the rest of our rich offerings on your computer, smartphone and tablet. International Herald Tribune subscribers will also receive free access to

If you are not a home delivery subscriber, you will have free access up to a defined reading limit. If you exceed that limit, you will be asked to become a digital subscriber.

This is how it will work, and what it means for you:
  • On, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.
  • On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to all other sections within the apps, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.
  • The Times is offering three digital subscription packages that allow you to choose from a variety of devices (computer, smartphone, tablet). More information about these plans is available at
  • Again, all New York Times home delivery subscribers will receive free access to and to all content on our apps. If you are a home delivery subscriber, go to to sign up for free access.
  • Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.
  • The home page at and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all users at all times.
For more information, go to 
Thank you for reading The New York Times, in all its forms. 
Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
Publisher, The New York Times
Chairman, The New York Times Company

The Times has launched an FAQ page to assist readers in understanding the changes about to implemented.

The Times press release also mentions that the paper will make 1-click digital subscriptions available by June 30, the deadline set by the new Apple subscription policies. One can expect new iPhone and iPad app before that date, as well.
As a registered reader of the Times, I have to admit that I am puzzled by the pricing strategy. The Times appears to be treating smartphone and tablet users as separate audiences. One almost would think that the pricing strategy here is intentionally designed to kill off their iPad app.

At $15 per every four week period of time, an iPhone owner can access the NYT through their app, while also reading the Times online, either through their computer or through an iPad's Safari browser. For $20 you can have full access to content through their iPad app and also any additional computers. But the Times also has a $35 level that grants full access using any device. I see no reason for anyone to pay this amount, even iPad owners since an iPad owner can buy the cheapest access and use their iPad's browser, if necessary.

Also, what if you don't own either a tablet or a smartphone? Sorry, no lower priced level than the smartphone level.