The New York Times has announced a plan to start charging for online access to its fine content. I had a few day's advance notice via email, as a faithful dead-tree subscriber. I started reading the email, and gave up. One particularly sharp observer, Jean-Louis Gassée, summarizes the Times' pricing policy thusly: – The first 20 articles in a "calendar month" are free. After that, you'll be nudged towards a $15 subscription for 4 weeks of Web access. – Smartphones? An iPhone, Android, or Blackberry app is included with the $15 deal. For one year of 52 (4 * 13) weeks, you'll pay 13 * $15 = $195. Yearly subscriptions aren't offered. But do I have to pay twice if I own both an iPhone and a Moto Droid?There's no Web-only deal. The basic $15 rate bundles Web and smartphone access. – If you have an iPad you'll pay extra: $20 per 4-week billing cycle = $210 for one year. – Other tablets? Not yet. – You want access from all of your devices? PC, smartphone, iPad, Times Reader 2.0, the NY Times app from the Chrome Web Store…that'll be $35 for 4 weeks, $455 for a year. – If you're a paper subscriber, the NYT elders smile upon you: You'll have access to everything from all your devices with no unseemly display of surcharge. But it depends on the deal you make: new subscriber, renewal, special offer, a conversation with a Customer Retention Specialist… It all sounds like dealing with a cell phone carrier or a cable network provider or an airline. Three well-loved businesses. – For e-book readers such as the Kindle and the Nook: Sorry, no access at this time. (Amazon will sell you the NY Times newspaper, but it doesn't give you access to the site.) – What happens if you touch a page through a search engine, through your friend's Facebook wall or Twitter tweet, through a link on someone's blog? Free…unless it's not. Another observer stated yesterday that the Times had spent $40-50 million to study and implement this paywall and some ace hacker figured out a 4 lines-of-code workaround already. It almost sounds like law firm pricing. Depending upon who is charging, what type of work they are doing, whether it is hourly or fixed, incentive or alternative, value or whack-a-mole. Whether the client is big or small, blue-chip or red ink, quick-pay or slow bleed. Whatever. I think law firm pricing is trending two ways: lower and simpler. In fact, for straight hourly stuff, I see 3 pricing levels in the crystal ball. I'll throw them against the virtual wall tomorrow to see what sticks.
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