Yesterday I wrote about Malcolm Gladwell’s The Sure Thing his most recent New Yorker piece. While, writing about it, I was surprised to find that I could not access the article on the New Yorker website without first registering for an account, using my hard copy subscription number. What this means is that the New Yorker content is locked away behind a pay wall, unaccessible to all but those who pay for a subscription.
While I have written previously, supporting Rupert Murdoch’s attempts and plans to better monetize online content, I found the New Yorker pay wall amazingly inconvenient. In light of last week’s announcement that the NY Times will charge non-subscribers for visiting the site frequently, I started to wrestle with this content question again.
What I have concluded is that putting content completely behind a pay wall is counter productive. It will stop bloggers, social influencers and everyday internet users from linking to you and generating traffic. However, I am totally sensitive to the need to better monetize content. Which is why I think the NY Times plan (which follows the model of the Financial Times) is actually quite a good one. People can link to the article and those browsing the web will (usually) be able to view the content. But frequent viewers of your content will have to pay. As I have said in previous posts from the NY Times to TechCrunch to the Wall Street Journal, I am happy to pay a subscription price for quality journalism because I consume so much of it.
Fred Wilson has got a more detailed analysis of this problem here that is definitely worth a read.