New York Times executives Janet L. Robinson, president and chief executive of the company, and Martin A. Nisenholtz, senior vice president for digital operations, have answered readers' questions about the upcoming paywall. It was announced on Wednesday that the US's premier general-interest paper was to launch a metered payment system in early 2011.
The paper seems to be taking the crucial issue of ease of use seriously, with the executives stressing that "we are determined to make subscribing as smooth and easy as possible" and they hope that the infrastructure of NYTimes.com will "provide our Web users with an uncomplicated, frictionless experience."They also expressed an intention to increase the benefits of having an account: "we are continuing to develop new features and functionality like personalization, which make it more valuable to establish a consistent identity on NYTimes.com."
Web-only subscriptions are for individuals (rather than individual computer addresses) and home delivery subscriptions allow for multiple accounts within one household. Other details that emerged include the absence of a student discount (although the Times executives pointed out that students do get a discount on a print subscription), the inclusion of archives in a subscription, and the fact that the paper is planning to keep web and crossword subscriptions separate, but is considering offering a discount for bundling the two.
The online subscription will include mobile access, but "there are no plans at this time to bundle Kindle subscriptions with Web site subscriptions," the executives specified.
When asked how the paywall would be policed, the executives replied that they had "a number of techniques available" to make it more difficult to avoid it by creating new accounts or proxy servers.
If a subscriber posts an article to Facebook or another social media site, then their friends who click on the link will be able to view this article free. It will also still be possible to send links via email.
Discussing the Times' previous paid online content effort, TimesSelect, the executives said "we learned a lot," including the fact that "people will pay for content online," and that "many NYTimes.com users believe what differentiates us is our journalism, the depth and breadth of our reporting and analysis."
Robinson and Nisenholtz mention that "services like iTunes have paved the way for users to pay for digital content," echoing many previous paid online content supporters' call for an 'iTunes for news.' "The tools and technologies that enable frictionless commerce have improved dramatically and fallen in price," they say.
There has been a significantly positive response to the NYT's announcement (although not exclusively so). Many seem pleased that somebody has finally made a definite commitment to charge online, after months of discussions among many publishers, and the general feeling seems to be that the New York Times has a good chance of succeeding.
In an interview with Newsweek, Journalism Online founder Steve Brill noted "the overall impetus that this gives this movement to reclaim the value of journalism." Greg Mitchell, former editor of Editor & Publisher, told The Wrap that "I will predict that the Times' experiment will do "better" than many predict -- but whether it's "a little" or "a lot" better will be crucial." Business Insider editor-in-chief Henry Blodget believes that online subscribers do have the potential to make up for lost advertising revenue. And technology writer Nicolas Carr, although describing the NYT's payment system as less of a metre and more of a "delayed-paywall," does think it's "a smart move."