We knew it was coming, and now there is a date: the Gray Lady is charging admission this month. The New York Times digital products (the website, TimesReader app, phone apps and iPad edition) will be subject to a subscription fee for US customers starting March 28, with Canadian customers active now as a test population.
- At the New York Times website, NYTimes.com, you can view up to 20 articles a month at no charge. After that, you'll get a notice inviting you to subscribe.
- Links inbound from social media services like Facebook and Twitter will work independently of the 20-article limit, as will links from some search engines; Google inbound links will be capped at 5 articles per day, per reader.
- On smartphones like the iPhone and on tablets (iPad) the Top News section will remain free. To see any other sections, you must subscribe.
There is no subscription plan available for just the NYTimes website. The lowest cost option is access to NYTimes.com plus a smartphone app for $15.00 per four-week period. A subscription to the NYTimes.com site and a tablet subscription is $20.00 for four weeks. Access to the website, smartphone and tablet editions is $35.00 for the same period. You can get a full breakdown on pricing here.
If you are a subscriber to the printed newspaper there is no charge for online access. The Times digital subscriptions page suggests that a special introductory offer will appear on March 28.
New York City subscribers to the Times can get the paper at home, in physical form, for anywhere from $6.20/week (daily paper only, no weekends) up to $11.70/week (all 7 days), after a 90-day half-off kickoff rate. Here in Arizona, I can get the printed version for about $60/month after the introductory rate. If you find a way to subscribe for less, the FAQ for the digital subscriptions says your digital access will be honored. Compare and contrast the $8.75/week maximum cost for the digital plans.
The low-end online subscriptions ($3.75 a week) are cheaper after the 90-day window, but complete online access costs
$420.00 $455 per year. For many customers who want digital access on both tablets and phones, it may actually be cheaper to subscribe to the physical paper. [Since the subscriptions are billed on a four-week schedule -- not a calendar month, unless that month happens to be February -- there are actually 13 billing cycles per year rather than 12. –Ed.]
This is a bold and potentially risky proposition for the Times, but all traditional media are facing the same issues, and they have to do something or risk vanishing. This is really about changing reader behavior and finding out whether or not there is a core audience for the online version that's willing to put their money where their news interests are.
The Daily from News Corporation is $4 a month, but I don't think much of it as a newspaper, even if the pricing is attractive.
According to AllThingsD and the NYT press release, Times subscriptions for the iPad and iPhone version will be offered through in-app purchasing (by June 30) in addition to the Times' website. That means the Times will be forking over a 30 percent commission to Apple on the digital subscriptions handled through the apps, but will keep all the revenue from subscriptions ordered on the paper's site (and for the complimentary digital subscriptions that go to physical-paper subscribers). If you're more inclined to give your money to the paper than to Cupertino, you can vote with your clicks and order your subscription through the paper's site today in Canada, and on March 28 everywhere else.
Subscriptions for RIM and Android devices will be handled using the e-Commerce engine the Times has in place. The Times has published an FAQ covering the rollout and available plans/options.
OK, TUAW readers. Will you buy, sit this one out, or wait to see what happens?