Would you pay to read the NY Times online? Survey results revealed!

Last week, the introduction of the New York Times paywall prodded me to ask all of you whether or not you’d read features and/or reviews from the Arts and Leisure section if you were forced to fork over your credit card info.

Ready for the down-and-dirty results?  I bet you can guess them.

  • First of all, 81.27% of those polled do NOT subscribe to the New York Times.
  • That leaves only 18.73% that do subscribe.

Next, when the non-subscribers were asked if they would pay to read a feature article . . .

  • 64.69% would NOT pay to read a feature.
  • 8.75% would pay.
  • 26.56% might pay.

Finally, when the non-subscribers were asked if they would pay to read a review  . . .

  • 70.25% would NOT pay to read a review.
  • 8.23% would pay.
  • 21.52% might pay.

So what does this mean?

First off, the only number that suprised me was the number of my readers that weren’t subscribers to the Times. But, I guess that’s why they are in this paywall mess in the first place.

Second, if I was a NY Times exec., I’d be frightened by these figures, even though it’s a very casual survey of a very specific type of reader (I don’t think the Times is counting on A&L readers to keep their biz going – still, I have to wonder if the Times did a similar survey before they erected their paywall).  The Times has to know they are going to lose readers.  The hope is that the small percentage that will pay will generate more income for the business than the readers they are going to lose.

Lastly, the results indicate that there is a large percentage of you that would consider paying for both features and reviews, which once again proves that it doesn’t matter what the barrier of entry is . . . if the content is crown-worthy, the people will pay.

As I’ve said before, people are not price resistant, they are value resistant.  They will pay $3,000 for a handbag or $5 for a cup of coffee or $150 for a theater ticket, if there is enough value in the experience, and if the experience is rare enough (which is the problem with the NY Times model – since free news is everywhere).

The challenge for the New York Times isn’t getting people to pay for their content.  The challenge for the New York Times is getting the content to a level where it’s worth paying for.

Thanks for taking the survey!  Oh, and if you ever max out on your 20 free articles and are dying to read the NY Times reviews, don’t forget you can always read them for free by visiting them through other sites . . . like, oh, I don’t know, this one?  🙂

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  • I was a print subscriber to The Times for more than 25 years. I read the paper on a regular paper for 8 – 10 years prior, mostly at school and then from the stand. Since I unsubscribed, I have often read online.
    I also subscribed to the Newark Star Ledger for many years, but in both cases went to online reading.
    Over the years, I have found the coverage of the news in The Times to become less comprehensive. In turn, I have found the paper of record to become less relevant to the world at large. I am currently shocked at how little coverage, if any, I see of the labor issues in the US and the disaster in Japan.
    I now get most of my news from the Guardian, the LA Times and AJE.
    My theatre news comes from blogs and Broadwayworld.com.

  • Laura Manske says:

    Oops! I should have responded to this survey, Ken. I subscribe to home delivery of the New York Times…at a cost of about $600 per year! (Yeah, I need to speak to the subscription department about renegotiating that high price.)
    The Times is my daily gift of words, and as a journalist I deeply value its worth — and the work that goes into producing the peerless Times. No one does it better.
    So, yes, my paper subscription comes with the online version (which, incidentally, I’m reading more and more throughout the day on my iPhone, while the paper version piles up in my home). But still, I’m willing to pay.

  • Jenny Greeman says:

    I regularly read the Times on my iPhone and I replied “maybe” to the question of paying for the subscription. Well, I was in the middle of reading a theatre review when I encountered the fire wall and it took about a second and a half for me to pull out my credit card and subscribe. I enjoy reading the Times too much to give up. I also think the Times gives an important, unique perspective. And, hey, journalists deserve to eat too!

  • Lisa Goldberg says:

    An important question that you did not add. Will you still read the Times?
    I tweet and use other social media often. I run into articles from the times from secondary sources and have a feeling that my usage will not be impeded by the paywall. Loyal online users will pay, the rest will not. Having those few customers pay is what the Times wants.
    I think it can have that and it’s “linked-to” users remain. The Times will have its cake and eat it too.

  • alangolub@gmail.com says:

    A little tip for any of you “A&L readers” on the fence: You can subscribe to the Sunday-only delivery plan for an introductory rate of $2.50/week, and gain complete electronic access to the NY Times web site along with the smartphone and iPad apps. After 6 months, it will jump up to $5/wk ($20/month), but that’s still a much better deal than the electronic-only all-access plan, and only $5/month more than the web site/smartphone plan.

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