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NYT Confidential (and Clueless): Keeping Blogs Behind the Paywall

The New York Times (NYT) announced its paywall only yesterday. It was immediately clear that there were gaping holes, though in some cases those made perfect sense. Now, though, it appears that even the paper's blogs will be behind the paywall. It shows still how little the Times understands online media.

Technology and communications journalist Simon Owens asked the question this morning of whether anyone yet knew how the paywall would affect the blogs. It was a great point, so I got on the phone with a Times spokesperson who said, yes, the blogs are behind the paywall.

The only things that will remain outside are navigational parts of the site: the home page, section fronts, and blog fronts. There is one temporary exception in the DealBook section, which just relaunched, so the Times wants to rebuild traffic -- presumably only to cut it off once they have it.

Everything else becomes part of the 20 articles available per month to most people. On smartphone and tablet applications, the Top News section remains available, although not to desktop or laptop Web users.

Economic realities drove the decision to use a paywall. But the strategy behind implementation looks more confusing as it becomes clearer. Blogs are inherently a medium to reach beyond the walls of an organization and to interact with the rest of the world online.

Can people and companies make money from blogs? Absolutely. But not by locking people out, because blogs are part of a greater conversation. One writer refers to another. Readers leave feedback and make suggestions. Periodical articles are one-way communications, and that is also fine. Different media for different purposes. But to put the blogs behind a paywall is to talk to yourself.

A blog well done could easily use up most of that allowance. "Good!" you can hear management say. "Then they can pay." Except, they won't. People will simply look up blog post references on Facebook or Twitter or Google or, yes, even other blogs and get around the paywall. That is, if the people who post on blogs or Facebook or Twitter bother going to the NYT's blogs because, after all, they're under the same limit.

It may all work out for the Times financially, at least in the medium run. The company might reverse its economic slide. But it will be a different New York Times ... a publication that over time will become more of a niche publication.


Image: morgueFile user hotblack, site standard license.
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