One of the more foreseeable consequences of the erection of The New York Times paywall -- which, by the way, most definitely needs a nickname -- is the carnivalesque atmosphere it's loosed in the digital media world. All sorts of rogues have gathered in the wall's shadow, doling out simple little hacks in an effort to subvert the $40 million barrier. Some were designed to simply screw with the Times; some were more strategic.
PaidContent's Joe Mullin had my favorite story on the mayhem, chronicling the adventures of two ex-Google employees who had founded a micropayments company called Minno. Trying to PR the startup, these fellows created a site called "The New York Times for a Nickel" that allowed readers to input a Times URL and read the story without paywall hurdles:
[Minno co-founder Calvin] Young said that in the 68 minutes the site was live, it served 677 URLs to customers, and thus made $33.85. Of course, the site let anyone register and offered them $2 of credit without handing over a credit-card number, so many of those hundreds checking out the site were probably folks just checking it out, or toying with their own hacking ideas. In any case, Young said he has already sent the NYT a check for $33.85 to show he had no nefarious intentions in setting up the site. Their hope was to "get on the radar of some of these big-time content publishers," said Young, adding: "We want to prove micropayments can work." He certainly got on someone's radar. Young said he was actually threatened with a lawsuit, while a New York Times spokeswoman said the company merely requested that the website be taken down because it was misusing the newspaper's trademark.
The Onion had its own paywall take, which needs to be presented, as all Onion pieces do, without a setup:
In a move that media executives, economic forecasters, and business analysts alike are calling "extremely bold," NYTimes.com put into place a groundbreaking new business model today in which the news website will charge people money to consume the goods and services it provides. "The whole idea of an American business trying to make a profit off of a product its hired professionals create on a daily basis is a truly brave and intrepid strategy," said media analyst Steve Messner, adding that NYTimes.com's extremely risky new approach to commerce -- wherein legal tender must be exchanged in order to receive a desired service -- could drastically reduce the publication's readership."
Last year, David Friedman's righteous hatred for April Fool's Day inspired him to look back at old issues of The New York Times Magazine. Really old issues. What resulted was a fascinating blog, SundayMagazine.org, and this Slate piece detailing his strange findings:
So I went to the microforms room of the New York Public Library and loaded the Times reel for March 1912 into a microfilm reader, a device I hadn't used for 15 years. I found the April Fools' article in the "magazine section," which I discovered was at the time a full-size section of the paper, not an insert as it is today. I wound through the reel to see what I might find in other issues that month. Just one week earlier, the headline of a full-page magazine article boasted "French Savant Tells of Life on Venus and Mars." In the text, zoologist Edmond Perrier wrote in extensive detail about the plant and animal life he was sure lived on the two planets. The illustrations showed a world that looked like James Cameron's Pandora, complete with large-eared humanoid bipeds. This was in The New York Times? I totally needed to blog about this.
I assumed that I knew everything there was to know about the man I wake up with every morning, the sharp, reliable, deadpan and, of course, Canadian Pat Kiernan. I was shocked, however, to learn that he possesses what seems like a rather ruthless ambition to break out of his local news cage, which, it turns out, is no longer good enough for him. Set at a party at the Canadian consulate-general's residence, this New York Magazine piece by Duff McDonald details the anchor/game show host's dreams to become the next Regis Philbin.
Kiernan's to-do list, then: (1) Get a tryout as a weeklong co-host on "Live!" (2) Convince his bosses that he still values his current job. The party is drawing to a close. "I don't want to be disloyal to NY1," he says. "I love that gig. But I went into it thinking it was a stepping-stone. I ran into some guy in a Borders recently who said, 'Pat Kiernan! I grew up watching you!' I thought: Oh my God! There's a generation that has grown up watching me? It might be time to explore new opportunities."
In a research report, KnowDigital looked at how real consumers -- as opposed to jaded media writers -- are using Rupert Murdoch's The Daily. The report heralded news that was neither all good nor all bad and held out hope for the new news concept, especially among light news readers who aren't especially tech savvy and are thus more likely to be wowed by all the interactive bells and whistles. A more pessimistic sense emerged from talking to heavy news consumers, who don't seem to find much of value there, a conclusion that this sample of one would agree with. One interesting insight had to do with how consumers categorize The Daily and could portend future challenges for news organizations trying to figure out tablets:
Consumers nearly universally describe the product as an app. Neither group initially refers to it as a website, newspaper or magazine. "I kinda like the app," says Kirk (49) in a typical first reaction to The Daily. Calling the product an app has implications for the perceived value of the product, both in terms of its success on the iPad platform and potential future expansion. Consumers believe that apps generally do not cost a lot of money. That perception may impact what consumers are willing to pay for The Daily on the iPad and elsewhere. To date, apps have generally been offered for a one-time price and not with recurring charges, which may impact consumers' willingness to pay for subscriptions to The Daily.