It's been a year since The New York Times erected a paywall limiting users to 20 free articles per month and requiring that they pay for a digital subscription of $15 or more per month to continue reading. Now that the company has initiated the transition, it is locking down access a bit more. Starting in April, readers are going to get just 10 free articles per month — half as much as the paper offered before — in a move to help push people to sign up for its premium digital subscriptions.
So how have customers reacted to the paywall? The paper reported today that it has signed up 454,000 paid digital subscribers — a number that includes those who pay for access to read the paper online and on various mobile apps, as well as those who pay for e-reader and replica editions of both The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune. That means the paper has amassed about half as many digital subscribers as its daily print circulation. The number also compares favorably with competing papers that have instituted paywalls: The Wall Street Journal, which started offering premium content on its site in the mid-1990s and has the highest circulation in the US, had 537,000 digital subscribers as of last fall. iPad-only paper The Daily reached 100,000 subscribers by its first birthday last month.
What do all of these numbers mean? Well, if you're not a fan of paywalls you're not going to be happy, as it seems that the system is gaining traction with consumers. Bolstered by the New York Times' digital edition (and a steep drop off in print circulation), many more papers have been switching over to the model. The Los Angeles Times instituted its own paywall earlier this month, and papers like the Boston Globe and the Star Tribune in Minneapolis all started charging customers for digital access within the past year.
If the New York Times' new 10-article-per-month limit won't satisfy your reading needs, you'll have the same options as before. The paper will still offer free access to articles accessed from links in emails, blogs, social media, and search, though the latter is limited to five free articles per day on search engines like Google. After that, you'll need to pony up $15 per month for a digital subscription with mobile app access, $20 per month for tablet and website access, and $35 for access from all three. Unfortunately those prices still don't include e-reader subscriptions for Kindles or Nooks, which both cost $19.99 per month.