New York Times Busy Patching Holes in Paywall

My long-standing argument against paying for the New York Times online has been to point out the number of holes in their paywall. These holes were designed to allow traffic from blogs and social networking websites but also have the effect of providing lots of ways around the paywall. If the Times wants to allow traffic from other websites but force regular readers to pay, then I was going to keep using the exploits.

But now the paper has begun fixing a wide array of paywall holes. No more opening the article in a new tab or window; the paywall is still there. And no more changing the URL; the paywall still kicks in no matter how many times you refresh. The nyclean bookmarklet still works, at least in my most recent testing, but it won’t take much code to stop that one too. Clearing cookies still works too, but the Times could simply require all users log in if accessing articles from the website. If articles viewed is tied to user account, rather than cookies, that trick will be gone as well. So, is it time to start paying for the New York Times online?

The answer remains no, and it remains that way for two simple reasons. First, paying for online access does not get rid of ads on the website. If I am paying for content, then I just want that content. In a paper newspaper, ads have always been present along with the content, because at one time, newspapers were a big business. Papers didn’t need to run ads because newspapers were sold for money. Ads are simply a capitalistic enterprise, and this accounts for the “newspaper barons” of the early 20th century. On a website, it is easy to remove ads, and the New York Times should do this for paying subscribers.

Second, the New York Times retains a bizarre pricing structure, whereby you pay 1 price to access the website and additional money to use the New York Times apps for iPhone OR iPad, and even more to use both. There is no reasonable justification for this pricing structure. Accessing the Times across all platforms costs over $8 per week, or about $420 per year. Want to access it online and on a smartphone? The cost is about $200 per year. Here’s where it gets really weird: if you want to access the content online or on a tablet app, it’s more, around $260 per year. Why does reading on an iPad compared to an iPhone cost an extra $5 per month? The reasoning doesn’t show up in the Times‘ marketing of online subscriptions.

Newspapers are expensive to run, there is no doubt about it. But newspapers as part of multimedia conglomerates, traded publicly, and bent on making a profit do not deserve our pity. That’s not to say we shouldn’t celebrate them and embrace their work within our capitalist marketplace. I applaud profit and growth! But I also aim to work in my own self-interest. A paywall that has holes will always be a paywall I exploit. Sorry, New York Times, but your patching won’t make me pay up this time.

4 thoughts on “New York Times Busy Patching Holes in Paywall”

  1. hi, for a few years i’ve been deleting nytimes cookies on firefox and then safari, and then happily went back to reading nytimes online. today, that doesn’t seem to work – using safari. i’m not aware of being logged in, except i did initially link through an email, so does that automatically tag who I am? still, when i went back just through the website, i still got stopped with the paywall.

    i agree with you; i would be willing to pay if i could get the news without the ads. However you are wrong that “papers didn’t need to run ads because newspapers were sold for money.” The cost of a newspaper was quite low, and was a very small source of revenue for newspapers. Advertisement was what paid the salaries, and amounting to about 80% of revenue overall. You might find this article interesting about the newspaper business. http://www.economist.com/news/business/21567934-after-years-bad-headlines-industry-finally-has-some-good-news-news-adventures

  2. Hi Rosy,

    Thanks for the comment! I used cookie removal a couple days ago and it worked as it has in the past. Next time I reach the limit, I will try it again and let you know what I find. I’m also curious to test out if opening in a new window or tab exclusively–rather than opening in the same window–will prevent cookies from being added. It’s one thing to check cookies in a new window. It’s another to add cookies for that new window, given that you might be coming to the website from somewhere like Facebook, behavior the Times wants to preserve.

    Thanks so much for the link. I look forward to reading it and learning more about the complex newspaper business!

    -Michael

  3. I earlier had tried quitting Safari and reopening a new window, but that wasn’t the source of the problem. But thank you for the suggestions. I was able to ‘fix’ my problem.

    First I logged off of Facebook, which I have a feeling is tracking alot of my movement on the internet, and i had a perhaps-paranoid hunch that Facebook could ‘reporting’ my whereabouts and my computer info to other sites- who knows? Then I went back to the Privacy window in Safari and tried again. Earlier I had selected “remove,” instead of “remove all” after I searched for nytimes. This time I selected “remove all” and voila! was able to read my 11th article this month. Until recently, I had been using Firefox, which showed the cookies quite differently. Thank goodness for Privacy settings!

    And thanks for your blog. I look forward to reading other posts by you.

  4. Hi Rosy,

    Another solution that someone told me about and might interest you–open a new window and start a “private browsing” session. (Called different things in different browsers, but that’s what Safari calls it.) This creates a walled garden with cookies, so your count would start over at ten for any browsing down while in private mode. Once you turn off private mode, then NYT would block you again (until you removed cookies yet again).

    -Michael

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