My experience with the New York Times paywall

I was doing some research yesterday and there was a specific article from the New York Times that I had read back in December (about a month and a half ago) that I wanted to re-read because it had some information in it that I wanted to follow-up on. For example, there were some people quoted in the article that I wanted to try and track down and talk to. So I did a search on what I remember from the article and the date range that I remembered the article falling within. With each search, I got one or two short sentences that matched the words in my query from each matching article and then I could click on each matching article and see a canned two sentence abstract.

Long story short, none of this was enough for me to figure out whether I had the right article. I was about to sign up for their $7 / month program that would give me access to 100 articles a month but then I thought, wait, do I really want to sign up for some recurring subscribes that’s going to run me nearly $100 / year. Why don’t I do a web search for the information I’m looking for?

Sure enough, one Google search later, I had far more information than what I was looking for in that one New York Times article. Assuming that the New York Times’ decision to maintain a paywall is a sound one (hard for me to analyze this since I’ve never been in the content business), there are things they could be doing better. Like on that 100 article / month limit — how does that work? Does it roll over from month to month? Can I see more of an abstract to figure out whether a particular article is the article I was looking for or am I limited to the same lame duck preview? Once I’ve “purchased” an article, up to how long afterwards can I view the article? Is there a place where I can go to view all the articles that I’ve purchased access to? Why not give me an all-you-can-eat option?

For me, it wasn’t even the actual cost of the service — my questions above would have been the same whether the service had been priced at $5 / month, $15 / month or $25 / month. It was more of the principle of it — when there’s so much information out there from other news outlets that’s “freely” available, is there really something that I’d pay to get just from the New York Times?

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