The New York Times paywall is going up:
The New York Times is preparing to introduce multiple subscription packages for access to the paper’s website and other digital content, kicking off the biggest test to date of consumers’ willingness to pay for news they’re accustomed to getting free.
Under the new system, expected to be rolled out next month, the Times will sell an Internet-only subscription for unlimited access to the Times site, as well as a broader digital package that bundles the Times online with its application on the iPad, according to a person familiar with the matter. Subscribers to the print edition of the paper will get full online privileges at no additional cost, Times executives have said.
I don’t mean to knock all of the Times reportage, which I think is generally pretty good, but there is no reason to bother subscribing if your primary interest is the book reviews and literary journalism. The Times’ longstanding team of Kakutani, Grimes, and Maslin was always a joke to those 20,000 (or whatever number) serious readers in America, and the recent substitution of Dwight Garner for Maslin does little to change that.
Likewise, as far as literary titles are concerned, the Sunday review offers little that can’t be had better elsewhere.
And in terms of actually discovering new, important things to read . . . yeah, haven’t used the Times for that since before I started blogging.
Of course, like everyone else I would drop in from time to time to see what was being said, because it is the Times after all, and you can’t just completely ignore it. And I suppose that they’ll set this thing up so that people like me can still access the handful of articles per year that we’d actually care to read. But to be honest, I don’t know anyone in my industry who takes the Times reviews as anything more than a grown-up-world version of the high school lunchroom, where you primarily just want to know who’s up, who’s down, who’s getting seen, who’s not.
But anyway, paywalls are just so 20th century. I’m one of those who believes that the Internet represents a change in kind–not degree–from the dominant media of the 20th century (film, TV, and radio). If you believe that logic, then you inexorably must conclude that you can’t be an entity a world where a 21st-century medium is the primary medium of discourse and try to use a 20th-century distribution strategy.
I get that the Times has to stay in business, and I have no problem with it pursuing revenue as it sees fit. But even as a revenue strategy, this is doomed to long-term failure. This is an old-media idea being grafted onto new media. It won’t work. The Times would be better off trying to figure out new models for the new world it exists in.