Will the New York Times Paywall Be a ‘Wasteland’ For Writers? It’s Coming Soon!


The New York Times had a big, important meeting today at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, in which the people in charge talked about how the business side is going. For most everyone that reads the paper, the discussion is boring beyond belief. (“The improvement in print advertising trends that we began to see in late January continued into February, and we finished the month with print advertising revenues down in the low-single digits,” said the CEO.) But there was one order of business that affects everyone: the implementation of the paywall, in which people will, in theory, pay for access to online content. The company has been planning this for a long time! Specifics, including launch date, are still pretty vague, but there’s more inside a Times-only edition Press Clips, our daily media round-up.

Pay For Play: We’ve been hearing and writing about this paywall for a while now, with plans for an January 2011 start, pushed by Times executive editor way back last May, now looking more like plans for a mid-2011 kick-off. It’s been in “active development mode” since last summer. And yet, beyond hearing rumors about $20 per month as a pricetag, there aren’t really any specifics available about how it’s going to work or how much it’s going to cost.

Many have speculated that the “side door” will always be left open, meaning anyone can come from search engines like Google and read an article for free. The paying will come, probably, from an internal allowance of clicks within the website, which will charge after a certain amount of movement no the site. Maybe!

Today, the Times announced, “The pay model for is in the final testing phase, and we expect it will launch shortly.”

In light of yesterday’s announcement that three-decade Times veteran Frank Rich will be abandoning ship to write for his old friend Adam Moss at New York, one fellow journalist even suggested that Rich was “escaping the coming paywall/wasteland at NYT, like an East German jumping the Berlin Wall.” While that sort of speculation didn’t play into the detailed story Rich and Moss told Women’s Wear Daily about the move, it’s a valid theory that could possibly play out, especially among younger or online-specific Times writers, should this pay plan thing ever really happen.

Update: Two Times opinion editors are leaving for Bloomberg News.

Murdoch Making Moves: At the Times, for free, is a report that Rupert Murdoch has plans to spin off News Corporation’s Sky News so the company will be allowed to take over British Sky Broadcasting. The spin-off would be to quell “concerns that the News Corporation would gain too much control over British news media.”

Taking over BSkyB would strengthen the News Corporation’s grip on the British media market, giving it control over a sprawling satellite TV operation that owns Sky1, a popular entertainment channel, and four Sky-branded sports channels that are the British equivalent of ESPN.

The conglomerate already owns several major British newspapers, including The Times of London, The Sun and The News of the World newspapers.

It’s possible to read that as: be very afraid. Or, good for the Murdoch kids, whose future keeps getting brighter.

Hugo Dot Com: Also free on the New York Times website is the new blog The 6th Floor, which serves as the online home of editor Hugo Lindgren’s revamped New York Times Magazine. In his hello post, Lindgren linked to some YouTube videos (Zach Galifianakis, Peter Bjorn and John) but writes, “we promise you this — we won’t be like the 25-year-old Twitter junkie in your life who knows everything before you do.” Just sit with that a moment, while you listen to Peter Bjorn and John.

The first redesigned issue is set for release on Sunday, but is already making its way online with a cover story from Jennifer Egan and a column from Times executive editor Bill Keller.

In a sort of fascinating break from last week’s old Times magazine, not the mention the newspaper, Egan’s new article online includes her email address at the bottom (it’s a Hotmail address), as well as her editor’s. Maybe this will be the norm for the new, hip Sunday insert, connecting writers with their readers, but sadly, the big boss Keller’s own address does not come with his column.