Back in January, the New York Times announced that it would be gravitating to a metered paywall system at the beginning of 2011. This would let readers access an as-of-yet unspecified number of articles for free each month, until requiring payment for further access. Meanwhile, print subscribers would have full access to content online.
The publication said the move would create a second revenue stream and preserve its ad business. "It will also provide the necessary flexibility to keep an appropriate ratio between free and paid content and stay connected to a search-driven Web," it said.
There has been a great deal of speculation around what this would mean for bloggers, who frequently link to the New York Times. The publication is clearly not anti-blogger or anti-link, because they are now saying they'll not even include referrals from blog links in a reader's limited free access. A spokesperson for the NYT tells Peter Kafka of MediaMemo, "The pay model will be designed so readers that are referred from third party sites such as blogs will be able to access that content without hitting their limit, enabling NYTimes.com to continue being a part of the open web."
That's good news for bloggers who rely heavily on the New York Times as a source, because nobody wants to point readers to a link in which they are prompted to subscribe for access (though it certainly does occur from time to time, and is perhaps unavoidable in some cases). It's also probably in the New York Times' best interest, because the casual reader arriving from a blog link is much more likely to simply backtrack than actually subscribe.
The NYT says it hasn't set the limit number for free access yet, but the paywall isn't supposed to go up until January, so there is plenty of time to work that out. The limit is not something they're going to want to launch without some careful consideration, though they can always change it depending on its success/failure.
By the way, a recent study found that the New York Times is one of the top four sites most often linked to by bloggers.
Would you pay for unlimited access to New York Times online content? Even if the most popular articles are linked to from blogs, from which you can gain free access? Tell us what you think.