A story about American journalism intersects a story about the internet as the NY Times announces the erection of a “pay wall.” Does this mean an end to unlimited free access to what is arguably the nation’s most popular on line newspaper?
The answer is a definite “Who knows for sure.”
Beginning next week unlimited access to the NY Times on line will cost you 15 dollars every four weeks…195 bucks a year. If you are only an occasional reader something will still be free: Twenty articles in each calendar month.
The Time’s “pay wall” has fascinated (and in some cases outraged) the digerati… not because of some belief that information just wants to be free but because the pay wall seems so extremely porous. In fact it took a Canadian hacker his lunch time to come up with about four lines of code that anyone could use to get around the little overlay that warns you that your twenty free visits are through.
NYTClean reportedly was able to skirt the paywall with just four lines of code, the Neiman Lab said.
On his website, Hayes said he built NYTClean after realizing the March 28 paywall was already in effect in Canada, where the paper is testing its new system before worldwide rollout.
“I’ve gotten thousands, tens of thousands of hits since this went up yesterday, especially considering this was a lunchtime project,” Hayes said of NYTClean on his site. “You just can’t see a wall like this without wondering how you can get around it. I love the New York Times, don’t say that I forced you to not pay for it.” (via LA Times)
If fussing with four lines of code seems too complex, there are other holes in the pay wall. If an article is quoted by an aggregator like Huffpo it won’t count as one of your twenty freebies; if it is cited on Facebook account, or on a Twitter account it’s not counted.
An oddity about Twitter accounts is that the Times own Twitter account lists a directory of New York Times journalists and newsroom accounts on Twitter. Go to your favorite columnists or sections and there you find all their recent posts… Free.
The Times’s pay wall is an interesting test bed for the future of American journalism. Should a newspaper be expected to give away its product simply because it is not in a dead tree edition?
Several years ago the Times charged 50 dollars a year for access to its opinion columnists and here at The Data Port we happily paid up. The practice was discontinued (I believe) when the columnists themselves complained they had lost readers because of the practice.
NY Times management clearly believes that 195 dollars a year will not be a deal breaker. It remains to be seen.