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Archive for April, 2011

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The New York Times – Charging for Free Content

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

In case you haven’t read about it yet, the New York Times changed their online access policy, by offering what they’re calling digital subscriptions. Here’s how it works:

If you are a home delivery subscriber of The Times, you will continue to have full and free access to our news, information, opinion and other features on your computer, smartphone and tablet. International Herald Tribune subscribers will also receive free access to NYTimes.com.

If you are not a home delivery subscriber, you will have free access to 20 articles (including slide shows, videos and other features) each month. If you exceed that limit, you will be asked to become a digital subscriber. On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to the other sections within the apps, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.

So, twenty articles per month for free, after which you have to pay to read. But wait, there are a couple of small caveats:

• Readers who come to Times articles through links from search engines, blogs and social media will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. This allows new and casual readers to continue to discover our content on the open Web. On all major search engines, users will have a daily limit on free links to Times articles.

• The home page at NYTimes.com and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all users at all times.

This is because the New York Times sells advertising on its web pages, and if people can’t link through to their articles, then they can’t charge as much for their advertising. And since the vast majority of people who read the news online link to individual articles, either through social media sites, news aggregators or search engine results (as opposed to clicking on every article on the Times’ homepage like it were a physical newspaper), preventing users from reading NYTimes articles when they click on those links would drastically reduce the articles’ pageviews.

So, why do I mention this? Well, as I did before when the Wall Street Journal tried this ridiculous scheme, I figured I’d offer, as a public service, a very quick and easy way to read New York Times articles online for free, even if you go over their prescribed monthly limit. To wit:

A couple of other points:

When I tested this just now, I noticed that the URL for the original article was:


and the URL provided by Google was:


Can it be as simple as removing the “?hp” from the URL to get to the article in the first place? I doubt it, but since I haven’t passed my monthly limit on NYTimes articles this month yet, I can’t test it. If anyone out there can confirm or deny this, post it in the comments of this post, OK?

Also, the NYTimes’ FAQ site for digital subscriptions boasts that if you read the same article twice in a given month, it won’t count against your limit of twenty. That would suggest that the NYTimes is tracking your individual reading habits, so it knows which articles you’ve read on a monthly basis. This is probably not a new practice, and is probably not used for anything other than enforcing their subscription rules, but given how sensitive the NYTimes is about topics like online privacy, I’m surprised they buried this information so deep in their FAQ file.

Anyway, I hope this little tutorial helps you to continue enjoying NYTimes content, right up until the point where their desperate attempts to cling to the old world of “news via subscription” ends with their dramatic and ultimate demise.

Categories: News and/or Media, Tech Talk | 5 Comments »

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