Arthur Sulzberger, chairman of the New York Times, has recently claimed that social sharing will be permitted despite the forthcoming paywall meter on the New York Times website, according to Paid Content. The NYT's paywall, set to be inaugurated next January, has been the cause of widespread concerns for the future of the news giant. Yet, Sulzberger hoped to put some of those concerns to rest as he claimed that article sharing on facebook and other social networking sites would probably remain free.
Sulzberger also commented on the degree of the paywall's impermeability. John Battelle of Federated Media suggested that consumers could simply clear the cookies from their Internet browser once they have used up their number of clicks and start all over, thus avoiding the paywall restrictions. Sulzberger responded by saying "There has always been and be always be ways to get around not paying for a newspaper. You could steal a newspaper from the stand today, if you really wanted to."
Sulzberger's point is well taken. While "theft" of online information may be a threat to post-paywall NYT, theft of information has always been a threat to the newspaper industry. However, it does seem that there is a profound difference between publicly stealing a newspaper and evading a paywall with a few clicks of a button in the comfort of your own home. While trusting the consumer to adhere to a sense of honesty is a nice idea, it may prove a little too optimistic. Consumers, now accustomed to free sharing on the Internet, may find the paywall somewhat absurd, thus justifying any measures they can take to avoid it.
Nonetheless, there were surely many sighs of relief as Sulzberger revealed that sharing information on social media would not be affected. Perhaps this move will appease NYT writers enough for them to stick to the publication, unlike other online publications that decided to go behind paywalls.
Overall, the NYT's decision to maintain free Internet sharing on social media sources will hopefully allow for the news source to remain relevant. While modern audiences have come to expect free information, perhaps the NYT's approach will be the combination between paid content and free online sharing that will appease online newsreaders. On the other hand, it could completely defeat the purpose of the paywall. Only time will tell.