Last Thursday, I wrote a piece on the New York Times paywall announcement. In short, my take was — good strategy, bad execution. I opinoned that:
Strategically, I break ranks with most digital strategists — I think a pay-wall for the NY Times is smart. The NY Times has one of the best brands, and one of the best websites, of any newspaper or news organization. If anyone can take a content type, in this case news, that has been devalued and commoditized, and build value back into it — it’s the Times.
But tactically, I think this New York Times roll-out is a disaster.
Since then there has been a maelstrom of commentary, scuttlebutt and conjecture about how this will all play out. The last 24 hours have been particularly fun:
The Good: The Times did a very clever deal with Lincoln. The Times identified a target list of frequent visitors to their website, and is partnering with Lincoln to offer free access to their site for the rest of the year. I love this deal — The NY Times gets Lincoln to pay for behavior they are trying to kick-start, while Lincoln targets a presumably well-heeled and aspirational consumer segment. This is smart, and good.
The Bad: SAI put together a brilliant chart (see below) on just how out of whack, The NY Times pricing model is. Again, with Pandora at $36 a year, and Netflix at $96 a year, The NY Times model of $455 a year defies credulity. This is wacky, and bad.
The Ugly: Peter Kafka just tweeted that Arthur O. Sulzberger, Publisher of the Times, just offered that “paywall hoppers will mostly (be) high school kids and people out of work”. Oh my, now that is incredibly dumb, and ugly.
The Final Take: As I often say, you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. The Times has so many things going for them — they are a legendary brand, producing high-quality work, with a tremendously loyal and influential customer base. They committed to the web years ago, and have turned their site into an interactive and vibrant destination. And as the local newspaper business continues to be disrupted, they actually gain opportunities through their strength and girth.
Yet, daily it seems, they make bad and ugly tactical and PR mistakes, that make my head spin.