There is no question that traditional media, especially print, is transitioning to digital. With the convenience of devices for consumers such as smart phones and tablets, combined with the cost-savings benefits for publishers, a transition to digital was not only logical, it was inevitable. With most of the content on the internet being free, and most newspapers charging for a copy, there was some question of how to make the transition. I think the New York Times was fairly successful.
The Paywall system was tried a couple of times early on in the Internet’s toddler and adolescent years, but I don’t think the timing was right. The internet was not quite mainstream enough, and most users were accessing from a desktop computer on a dial-up connection. Charging a premium to access content that wasn’t more convenient than getting a newspaper wasn’t a great business model. Even in 2005, the TimeSelect system wasn’t perfect, because readers could get general news anywhere, and find content from their favorite authors on their public blogs and social media. The “leaky wall” improved the whole system, and married subscriptions to social buzz.
Current subscribers got to access the content they always did, with the convenience of digital consumption if they preferred. These consumers were also leveraged as sort of “social ambassadors” and allowed to share content via social networks. Their friends and followers were allowed to access restricted content as long as it was through a social platform. Readers using search to find NYT articles were also allowed to access content in a limited capacity at 5 articles per day. Normal visitors to the NYT website were allowed a maximum of 20 articles per month.
While this system wasn’t and isn’t perfect, it can evolve as the market evolves. It encourages regular users to share content to friends, family and followers through social. It encourages social users to subscribe. It has an almost innate targeting system that finds the readers most likely to subscribe, and brings them in through the content they want most.