A Massive Hole in New York Times' Paywall Plan - Here's A Better Plan...
Jay Rosen, a journalism teacher at NYU, points out an interesting aspect of the New York Times' future paywall. Access to NYTimes articles will be free and unmetered if readers follow a link to that article found on another web site.
Wow. That means I could simply produce a shadow web site of NYTimes.com and offer free access to anyone to the entire content of the site!
Here is the extract from answers to questions sent to Janet Robinson, president and chief executive of the Times company, and Martin Nisenholtz, senior vice president for digital operations.
"If you are coming to NYTimes.com from another Web site and it brings you to our site to view an article, you will have access to that article and it will not count toward your allotment of free ones."
I can see what the management is trying to do, it is trying to harness the distributive power of the Internet and the social media sharing trend, but it is also opening up a huge hole in its paywall.
How serious is the New York Times about having a paywall when it seems it will be very easy to bypass it?
I have a better plan:
Use the metered approach in which people's visits are counted and when they reach a specific number you cut them off.
People that click through to a story from a blog post get one free credit. But only if they come through a blog post on a site that has agreed to "adtribution."
Adtribution combines links and quotes with text ads from the source.
In this example, where the blog post quoting the New York Times article has agreed to run between one and three simple text advertisements that are designated by the New York Times, its readers can click through for free. By agreeing to use adtribution, the New York Times essentially offers a license to the blog site to quote and link to its original story.
In this way, the newspaper can get distribution for its news, and its advertisers.
Less than half click through...
This is important because a recent study by Outsell found that only 44% of Google News readers click through to the original article.
If that's the case with New York Times too, then the newspaper needs to be able to at least place some of its advertising in front of readers at the point where others (bloggers) are making use of their stories.
By agreeing to quote and link to New York Times stories in exchange for running a text ad link or links, the New York Times can essentially license those bloggers and help generate some much needed revenues.
Bloggers that don't agree to adtribution would be risking legal action, and, they would be seen by their readers as parasites on the work of others.
The future media business model...
The future media business model will be a 'Heinz 57' model -- it will consist of many streams of revenues: subscription, advertising, lead generation, virtual currencies, etc.
It will be tough to monitor and manage all those revenue streams but we can develop the tools to do that and there will be lots of third party services to help.
The New York Times is wise to wait until 2011 to figure out its paywall, it'll give it time to plug potentially massive holes, and investigate new variations, such as adtribution.
BTW: Here's another problem - Newspaper Paywalls Could Be Used To Spread Misinformation...
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NYT: Charging Ahead (Slowly) - Paywall in 2011
Adtribution Might Be A Solution For Murdoch, A.P, Et Al, Versus The News Aggregators And Bloggers - SVW
Newspapers: 25 things to try before turning off the lights | Tom Foremski: IMHO | ZDNet.com
Virtual cash could save newspapers | Tom Foremski: IMHO | ZDNet.com