For those that have been milking all the free The New York Times content that it could manage out of the 20-free-articles-under-the-paywall limit, your free news consumption has now been cut in half.
With 454,000 paid subscribers, NYT announced Tuesday that it will raise its paywall come April to try and absorb more subscribers thanks to the success it has been experiencing since the fee started one year ago.
With this change, NYT digital subscribers will continue to access to content on the website and across multiple digital platforms.
“Last year was a transformative one for The Times as we began to charge for digital access to our content,"Arthur Sulzberger,chairman and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company and publisher of The New York Times, said in a statement. "Today, close to a half million people are now paying for digital content from The Times and the IHT. We knew that readers placed a high value on our journalism, and we anticipated they would respond positively to our digital subscription packages. Our commitment to all of our subscribers, both print and digital, is that we will continue to invest in and evolve our journalism and our products, and we will remain a source of trustworthy news, information and high-quality opinion for many years to come.”
For this paywall change, NYT will offer existing digital subscribers and home delivery subscribers a gift of a 12-week free subscription to the NYTimes.com and a smartphone apps package to a non-subscribing friend or family member.
Beginning in April, all users of NYTimes.com will be able to enjoy 10 articles at no charge each month (including slideshows, videos and other forms of content).
The rest of the paywall’s set-up looks like it will stay as is. So, those that get directed to a NYT article via a link or Google search can read some content (and NYT gets all those traffic numbers) but those that regularly read NYT content will be encouraged to buy a subscription since they receive so much information from the news mainstay.
But not helping to stem the fall
In the last quarter of 2011, circulation revenue was up 5% thanks to the digital-subscription readers signing up, but it wasn't enough to stop the overall decline in revenue -- a drop 2.8% for the quarter. Total revenues were $643.0 million, down from $661.7 million. Advertising revenues also decreased 7.1%.
And NYT had an operating profit of $106.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, down from $111.6 million in the same period of 2010. Ouch.
But the NYT is also trying to use its premium content in various mobile programs such as the Election 2012 app.
It was hard to tell weeks after the NYT added the paywall whether people would pull out their credit cards for the same news they got last month for free. Advertising and marketing intelligence service Experian Hitwise studied the impact of the paywall on traffic to NYTimes.com by comparing total visits and page views from a 12-day period in late February to early March with a similar period in late March to early April.
Total visits to the site decreased between five and 15 percent for all of the days except the last Friday, which saw nearly no change at all, and Saturday, which somehow saw a seven percent increase in traffic. Experian attributes that anomaly to fears in the public and media that the U.S. government was shutting down as a result of budget discussion deadlock.
But in recent months, and after adding some more content and advertising campaigns, the NYT traffic has boosted back up to better than pre-paywall numbers, but not by a whole heck of a lot.
Since putting the paywall up has added some cash into its pockets, the test is to see if that paywall will hold in more cash with just a few more bricks to fortify the evolving business model.