Users of mobile devices have developed some pretty strong expectations for how they consume content: when you see an article, listicle, on some kind of editorial post shared by one of your friends on social media, you want to be able to tap on that content (usually in the form of a summary) and see the full thing. And while users want this interaction to be as streamlined and effortless as possible, the companies acting as guardians for some of that content aren’t crazy about the idea of giving it away for free. Enter: the dreaded paywall. Sites have been experimenting with just how far they can push users to pay (without scaring them away altogether) for years, but the days of generous viewing limits may soon be drawing to a close, as noted paywall proponent The New York Times starts seriously stepping up its efforts to convert casual readers to subscribers.
It used to be that the NYT put a 20-article-a-month cap on non-subscriber viewing, tightening that limit to just 10 posts a month a few years back. But there were exemptions to that rule, especially for social media (and correspondingly, the way a lot of us access such content from smartphones): follow a link from Facebook or Twitter, and that limit was ignored.
That’s already started changing, and earlier this year the NYT expanded its 10-per-month limit to include some users accessing posts through Facebook. The other shoe dropped late last week, as the NYT’s social-media exemption similarly began being ignored for Twitter shares. The new behavior’s not active for everyone just yet, but maybe half of the most active readers could find themselves presented with demands to pay up.
When you tap a link and are presented with a paywall, do you consider taking the time to sign up and pay for an account? Does your mind immediately go to “how can I read this without paying?” Or do you find the practice so repugnant that you lose interest in the article altogether – “if they don’t want me reading their stuff, it’s fine by me”? Going forward, these look like they’ll be questions a lot more of us will ind ourselves asking.