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New York Times paywall sounds more like swiss cheese

March 23, 2011

By now, I’m assuming you’ve read about the New York Times’s paywall. It isn’t surprising that the NYT would charge a subscription for their content. It’s a trend that I don’t think will disappear in just a few months. What is interesting, however, are the loopholes NYT have built into the system. It’s more of pay swiss cheese than a wall.

Each user gets 20 free article views. After that, you need to subscribe. However, and here’s the interesting part, links from sources like Facebook and Twitter do not count against your 20 article count. If your friend shares a story via twitter, you can view that article. These holes have lead a lot of people to question how effective the wall will be, and it’s driven a few creative folks to already exploit them.

Today the NYT have asked Twitter to shutdown the account FreeNYTimes, an account set up explicitly to post links to every NYT article online. This is just the first of many exploits. There are other accounts with the same purpose, as well as browser extensions designed to bypass the new wall.

NYT is trying to stay open while closed, and it looks as though their policy may come back to bite them. We’ll have to wait for statistics about subscribers to come out, but I suspect many tech-savvy users will utilize exploits to get in and read the news without abiding by the rules. It’ a fine line the NYT are walking, and it appears that their stance falls on the too-open side, at least when it comes to money.

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