NYT Working With Google to Prevent Paywall Abuse

But executives reveal little about upcoming metered model

Last Updated: December 7, 2010 @ 1:06 PM

As has become their custom, New York Times Company executives made an appearance at a media conference on Tuesday to discuss their business — specifically their flagship newspaper’s online paywall planned for early 2011 — without revealing what they plan to charge for access, or virtually anything else about their plans, for that matter.

The Times has yet to announce a launch date, or even month, for the highly-anticipated paywall.

"It'll be sometime in the first quarter of next year," Times CEO Janet Robinson said at the UBS investor conference, according to Yahoo's Cutline blog. "The specifics we will outline before the launch. I think we have done the kind of preparation you would expect from us."

About the only thing the executives did reveal about the paywall is that they’ve been working with Google to fortify it.

Additional details were scarce. Via Yahoo:

The Times' model will encourage inbound links from blogs and social media by allowing users to view a certain number of articles for free before being asked to pay — and Robinson says that's key to getting users to move over to the subscription model.

"The first-click-free approach will help to preserve NYTimes.com's significant reach and advertising inventory in that it will allow us to retain light users while aiming to convert heavier users to a digital subscription," she said.

And company officials stress that the system won't lend itself to easy appropriation by free riders, as has been the case with other paid news websites.

"We will take great pains to make sure that the first-click-free policy isn't abused in any way," said Martin Nisenholtz, the Times' digital chief. "Google has been quite cooperative in terms of setting a limit for the number of free articles that can go in for any one day, so that you can't just sit and engineer your way into a free use of the website. It's first click free, not 50th click free."

As Forbes noted, Nisenholtz took a swipe at News Corp. and the wall Rupert Murdoch erected around the Times of London website, which has “has seen traffic drop precipitously since it went behind a restrictive paywall last July.”

“We do want to remain open to the global web,” he said, adding that the Times’ approach is “very distinct from the Times of London which has a hard gate and basically has shut 99 percent of its users out.”