Monday, March 28, 2011

Paying to read The Times online

Starting a few minutes ago it will now cost you to read more than 20 articles a month on the New York Times' website. I estimate that I will reach my quota the day after tomorrow, if not sooner. And then?


It is a dilemma. As a sometime freelance writer I know that writing for online or print media is garnering less and less pay, unless you are an established literary heavy hitter. Journalists are being laid off left, right and centre. Many writers on major blogs work for nothing. Link love. The result will be - and is - poorer and poorer articles, inevitably, as little compensation means you can afford to spend as little time writing as possible (unless you are independently wealthy. And New York is still full of trust funds!). Write for six hours or days for less than $200 for over 1,000 words for an established, respected publication. Or 400 words for $25, as some new media lovingly advertises?

That is the new online reality. This is the new sweatshop.

Good writing takes good time. Time is money. It really is.

So a revolution is inevitable.

The Times pays salaries of reporters (1,100) and editors who spend days, weeks, months working on - one hopes - well-told and researched stories all over the planet. How to pay the salaries when the income from print subscriptions has evaporated and advertising does not make enough?

Seeing both sides of the story is awful, because despite my argument in favor of paying for quality, I will not be paying $15 - $65 depending on the type of subscription [this has been corrected - I originally wrote $50, flat fee] a month to read The Times. I do not have health insurance. We live - albeit well - in a matchbox. We have no children to support, but the cat needs kibble. I need a new pair of boots.

I would pay $10. I wonder why they did not make it $10. Or even $5? For the little people? I know. Even the little people want big news.

How many of you are signing up and on, and why?

How I feel after a month might be a world different from how I feel now. We shall see. In the age of the world wide, free Web, I was trained to expect the good stuff for free. Perhaps it's a matter of time before the Internet pendulum swings the other way and we realize that we must pay for  what matters.


  1. I am in a similar situation....If it were even $20.00 a month...I would probably dump our local paper...though I feel guilty not supporting that too....I love the NYT...but as you said $50.00 is just too much.

  2. I've seen three monthly subscription rates for the Times online for $15, $20 and $35 every four weeks but did not see a $50/month rate. These rates are outlined in today's Times' article about online subscription rates etc.

  3. Carol - it's not $50. Grand error on my part. Now you'll have to subscribe :-)

    Nancy - thank you! Corrected...I totally messed up my math when adding the weekly fees.

  4. All my years of paying for weekend delivery of The Times pays off because I have free access to the online version. If this wasn't the case, I'm not sure I would pay for it -- probably not. But I also won't be canceling my print subscription either. If nothing else I need the newspapers for my worms ( And I hope to never lose the love of sitting around on Sundays reading the big, fat NYT. Hope it stays that way... big and fat I mean. I suspect that a LOT of people will need to subscribe to the online version to make that happen.

  5. It's a thorny issue.And, for those(like myself) who must factor in the exchange rate...
    A couple of months ago, Google started sending me, unasked, news items,with links, in my email.(I think all g-mail accounts got this) Then they asked for "a little money" to help keep it going. Not a flat rate;they worked on the conscience of wealthier people being more generous.
    But the Times will lose me. I will just have to take what I can find on-line from the Guardian (English) and others.
    But I do understand the dilemma. I'm also a sometime-scribe.
    Hell's teeth! If I have to spend more time on the keyboard who will take care of the dust bunnies!

  6. It's tough. We dropped our home weekend subscription to the paper version because so often it never came - we are a long ways away! But, we won't pay that much.

    Perhaps you can use other big papers to fill in. Not the same, but it might fill a gap for you.

  7. I got a free subscription to the NYT on-line through a Lincoln car ad (I almost passed it by because I thought it was just a regular old ad). Seems they were offering it free to heavy users of the NYT website.

    And it *was* free! I didn't have to fill out a survey or anything and I am hardly in their demographics as far as car buying is concerned - I drive an 18 y.o. Mitsubishi minivan with a gazillion miles on it and I make only $40K a year.

    So, see if you have the Lincoln car ad come up while you're browsing and read it carefully. You might get lucky, too.

  8. NO, I am not going to pay to read NYT on-line, either. There are lots of other sources for news and I'll use my 20 views on the times site to look at the Home section and the artsy-fartsy stuff. I can check the magazine section out of the library. I was wondering: Do you think that Randy Cohen (The Ethecist) and others left the Times in protest? I got the Lincoln offer too, so maybe I'll drag it out of the trash and reconsider...

  9. $50 for news you can trust seems like a bargain to me. And I'm hardly rolling in dough.

  10. Marie,
    I am stretched to my very limit, fiscally. I will not pay for the times online. My link will have to go? Hmm. I used to get free Times at school, I read it every day and was depressed as hell!

    Apparently the print subscription makes more money than anything else at this point. You also get the online with the print version, and the print version costs, guessing, 179 per year? Possibly a better deal.

    Anyway, I don't think I go there 20 times a month -oh, yes, I am a news philistine.

    By the way, the Newspaper Guild asked all unpaid writers for the Huffpo to walk out. So far, nada. Fight the power.

  11. If we do not pay, how can we ask to be paid? I pay for music, too. Won't dub CDs for family or friends. How can we expect musicians to record if everyone copies their work for free?

  12. I've got a little too used to not paying for stories or comment and so on.

    Truth is that for too long print media saw electronic publishing as a way to leverage their print brand when the reality is the world is moving away from newsprint etc.

    Pricing on-line is just so difficult as it almost seems to go against the the 'spirit' of the net.

    I used to buy a copy of the Times (London) at the tube station each day. It's cover price was a £1, I wouldn't pay 30 quid a month for it on-line though. It's difficult, someone's got to pay the salaries.

  13. Here's a link with some geeky ways to get around the limit:!5786272/how-to-get-past-the-new-york-times-20+article-paywall

  14. I heard on NPR that if 1% of the online readers, (total 32 million, so 320,000) pay to play, then the bottom line is covered. That is an annual figure of $57,600.000.

    If print is phased out, I wonder what that would save in printing costs, distribution, infrastructure. You keep the journos and editors, but lose all the support staff. It is an interesting time for publishing.

  15. I subscribe to the Times for the weekly version and share Sunday's paper with my next door neighbor who has the Sunday subscription. I'm very tactile and would dearly miss sitting down where ever I want to and read the paper. So with the subscription I will have access to online. Sort of the best of both


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