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The New York Times Strengthen Their Paywall Against Twitter and Facebook

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With the way that online journalism is eclipsing print journalism, and the shaky reliability of ad revenue, many papers have started charging a subscription fee for full access to their sites. Prices vary, but typically, non-subscribers are only able to see the first few paragraphs of any given article. It seems to be working relatively well, as many of the well known publications have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. The New York Times, in particular, has over 1 million. Evidently, though, that's not enough for them.

Their system is a little different. Initially, non-subscribers could access 20 articles a month online, and later that dropped to 10, but anyone viewing them through Facebook or Twitter sidestepped that limitation entirely. This was no accident, the idea was that people who otherwise wouldn't come into contact with the paper would effectively have content brought to them, like a digital doorstep delivery.

Obviously it worked, the Times has 25.9 million Twitter followers and a touch under 11 million likes on Facebook. With figures like that, you can understand why the paper might want to start turning some of those fans and followers into paid customers. The Times was one of the first publications to get on Facebook's Instant Articles train, but its output is corralled into a selection of articles, rather than a full compliment, unlike others.

They reduced the number of articles accessible through Facebook to 10 a couple of months ago, and now that limitation has been extended to Twitter referrals as well. They're classing it as something of an experiment, which is probably just a means of verbal ass-covering in case it ends up backfiring, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they might see their subscription numbers start to climb now, so it could well be here to stay.

Are paywalls a good thing, though? Are they fair? The freedom of information access the internet has granted us is easy to take for granted. I could hop on YouTube right now and find decent quality rips of albums and EPs that it would have taken years of obsessive crate digging to find even 15 years ago. It's not an issue of being locked out of important news, it's where the news is coming from. If you have enough faith in the Times' quality to want to support it, you will, otherwise you'll look elsewhere.

Other, smaller sites will have to rely on ad revenue, but in a way, this is a help more than a hindrance, since non-subscribers will be forced to look elsewhere to find quality journalism. Social media's erratic development has left digital content mired in a kind of perpetual beta phase, and it can often seem like promotion strategies are changing on a daily basis, but if you're already assured of an audience, you can pretty much make your own rules, and that's what the Times is doing.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @Songbird_Callum


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The New York Times Strengthen Their Paywall Against Twitter and Facebook Reviewed by Callum Davies on Thursday, March 31, 2016 Rating: 5

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