Times Promises a Blogger-Friendly Paywall, But Will That Work?


Once the pay model is implemented next year, the majority of our readers will be unaffected when using the site and will continue to have the same experience they have always had,” Times spokeswoman Stacy Green told Peter Kafka today, of the metered paywall that the paper is set to erect in June 2011. “The pay model will be designed so readers that are referred from third-party sites such as blogs will be able to access that content without hitting their limit, enabling NYTimes.com to continue being a part of the open web.” This statement was issued as a response to a blog post by Jeff Bercovici yesterday, which wondered: “Will the New York Times’ Pay Wall Chase Away Bloggers?”

Bercovici raised the question after a report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that 80 percent of the links to news outlets from blogs go to four traditional-media sites: the BBC, CNN, the Times, and the Washington Post.The Wall Street Journal, which has a substantially larger subscriber base than both of those papers, doesn’t appear on the short list — even though the most popular subjects linked to by blogs are business and economic news. “That, of course, is because the Journal has dwelled for years behind a pay wall that, while highly permeable, is still an effective deterrent to bloggers, who don’t want to direct their readers to dead ends,” writes Bercovici. The Times, in their statement, seems to have addressed that conflict. They won’t get hit by this blog-linkage drop-off because they’ll let bloggers give access to entire articles for free!

The problem with this logic is that the Journal already does that. As any major blogger knows, you can just e-mail the Journal and they’ll give you an open link to most stories that you can share with your readers. Not to mention, it’s pretty easy to get readers to a Journal story if you want to. The Times doesn’t even know yet how their paywall programming will work, and probably won’t until the end of the summer. But if the functionality of their loophole for bloggers is at all similar to the one the Journal already uses, then chances are — as is demonstrated by the Journal’s relationship with blogs — a whole lot of them will be too lazy, or too much in a hurry, to take advantage of it.