The New York Times rolled out a plan on Thursday to begin charging the most frequent users of its Web site $15 a month in a bet that readers will pay for news they have grown accustomed to getting free.
Beginning March 28, visitors to NYTimes.com will be able to read 20 articles a month without paying, a limit that company executives said was intended to draw in subscription revenue from the most loyal readers while not driving away the casual visitors who make up a vast majority of the site’s traffic. […]
Not all visits to NYTimes.com will count toward the 20-article limit. In an effort to avoid deterring as many as possible of the Web site’s more than 30 million monthly readers, The Times will allow access to people who arrive at its Web site through search engines like Google and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. There will, however, be a five-article limit a day for people who visit the site from Google.
(Jeremy W. Peters, “The Times Announces Digital Subscription Plan,” NYTimes.com, March 17, 2011)
So, the dedicated readers who visit the site directly are punished, while the casual readers who click on links from other sources are given free reign (although as the dedicated readers are the ones who would be most willing to pay, it’s the most logical way to do it).
Also, this announcement perfectly coincides with Benjamin Brooks’ piece on the fragility of free.