Industry Leaders Debate Digital Paywall

The New York Times’ paywall went live today, making free news, all the time, any time, a thing of the past at the country’s iconic newspaper of record.  We here at On Point are paying close attention, as are newspaper publishers and news consumers who have gotten used to free.

Are paywalls the way forward for beleaguered newspapers or does this smell of a desperate attempt to recreate the past in our digital future?

Ken Doctor, news industry analyst,, called the New York Times paywall a “do-over.”  He told Tom, when everybody moved to the web, “we all thought for some reason it should be free,” and now the Times is trying to “race against the clock to find another substantial pipeline of revenue.”

Doctor cautions that this metered pay wall is not a “panacea” but “it’s a building block” for the Times and others.

John Paton, CEO of the digitally successful Journal Register Company and this hour’s guest, disagrees.  Paton says paywalls are a “dangerous waste of time,” because “marrying a new idea to an old model” is an “idea that never fails to fail.”

While some publishers complain that online advertising is trading print dollars for digital dimes, Payton advises that they “start stacking those dimes.”

New York Times pay wall in action

Paton and Doctor do agree that online content must be worth paying for.  Payton notes that “currently we do everything to make print and shovel it onto the web and say we are multi-platform.” That won’t be enough in a ‘content is king’ news culture.

One thing we know is that we don’t have to pay.  Doctor calls the paid-content system a “fence” not a wall.  He says that it is “meant to be porous,” in fact the Times’ fence is a “one percent solution” because it targets the heavy users only.

In fact, it took our guest, Canadian web developed, David Hayes twenty minutes and four lines of code to get through the Times’ paywall.  With his NYT Clean on your web browser, you simply won’t hit the paywall.  Hayes explains, “anytime you put up a fence there is going to be someone, in this case me, who wants to get around it”

You won’t hit any paywalls at On Point radio.  Listen to the entire hour here.

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