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Must-See Visualization of the New York Times Paywall

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Show of hands: Who thinks the New York Times paywall will succeed?

Few analysts are optimistic on the Times' online pay scheme. With so, so many fallen news sites that threw up a paywall in their final months, we already know how this will end. In fact, the Times should already know the fate of a paywall, having tried and failed already in 2007!

But now, the only question is, which will fall first: the paywall or the paper?

And given how poorly implemented the paywall is -- with all its loopholes and back doors -- Nieman Journalism Lab's Joshua Benton posited that the Times does, in fact, know that the pay subscription is a bad idea. Benton lays out all the simple hacks that gain access to shuttered articles -- including the Chrome and Firefox extensions designed to circumvent the pay wall automatically -- and considers that maybe, just maybe, those back doors exist because it'll usher in the potential readers who would normally be driven away from the paywall.

"Imagine a Venn diagram with two circles. One represents all the people on the Internet who might be convinced to pay for The other represents all the people on the Internet who (a) know how to install a bookmarklet or (b) have read a Cory Doctorow novel. Do you really see a big overlap between the two? If someone is absolutely certain to never pay for the NYT, then it makes sense to squeeze a little extra advertising revenue out of them on the rare occasions when a link sends them to"

But the problem with that, as Benton sees it, the plan relies on the conception that the "happy-to-pay" crowd will never find these workarounds -- or at least be too honest to use them. Do you know many people in this economy who are more than willing to fork over an unnecessary expense?

Or in the Times' case, an exorbitant expense?

On his blog The Understatement, Michael DeGusta posted a chart that visualizes the annual cost of digital subscription prices -- including server space to Google and Dropbox, unlimited access to Pandora and SiriusXM, streaming video from Netflix and Amazon, and complete backlogs to Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

The difference is astounding.

At $35 every four weeks, the New York Times TOWERS over the unfettered access offered by other online outlets. DeGusta writes:

"Does The Times really think the mass audience is going to decide their $455/year is better spent on The Times rather than getting 20+ free articles/month from The Times plus The Wall Street Journal ($207/year) plus The Economist ($110/year) plus say The Daily ($39/year) for good measure, and still having ~$100 left over each year?"

Like almost everyone, DeGusta doesn't understand how -- by pricing itself out of the competition -- the New York Times believes it will stand out among the far cheaper options. And that's not including the vast array of free, ad-supported new sites. He sums it up thusly:

"I don't like to make predictions, but I have a hard time imagining their current 'pay labyrinth' scheme even lasting til the end of the year. I sure hope it doesn't last long. It's sad that instead of competing for the future by pricing for the digital age, The Times has opted to fight an inevitably doomed battle to hold on to the past."

Yeah. "Inevitably doomed" is an apt description. And unless the paper wises up, the degree to which that description applies will only grow.
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