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@freeNYTimes Twitter Feed Drives Truck Through Narrow NYT Paywall Exception

On March 17, 2011, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. made news when he announced that the Times is now rolling out "digital subscriptions" that will require readers of more than 20 articles each month to become paid subscribers. There are some exceptions to this requirement, however. For example, home delivery subscribers will continue to have full and free access to The New York Times website.

In addition, Sulzberger stated that the paper was carving out an exception for readers who come to New York Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter. Those readers, he said, will also not be required to enter into a subscription, even if they have hit their monthly reading limit of 20 articles.

Twitter being Twitter, it did not take long for someone to eye the Times' narrow social media exception and drive a truck through it. Indeed, the same day that Sulzberger announced the new plan, a Twitter feed by the name of @freeNYTimes was born. Using the Times' own data (which is provided to developers here with the express invitation, "why just read the news when you can hack it?"), @freeNYTimes is engineered to automatically link to each and every Times article that is posted. Under the Times' current plan, that means that anyone willing to sift through stories on @freeNYTimes would have no compelling reason to pay for a digital subscription.

Not surprisingly, the Times does not like this development. Jeff Bercovici reports on Forbes' Mixed Media blog that the Times has now asked Twitter to disable the @freeNYTimes feed as an alleged violation of its trademark. However, as I write this, @freeNYTimes is still up and running.

Bercovici also notes another way around the paywall, a bookmark called NYTClean that uses four lines of code to allow users to avoid subscribing. The New York Times told Bercovici it is aware of such workarounds but "plans no changes to the programming or paywall structure in advance of our global launch on March 28th.”

Posted by Bruce Carton on March 25, 2011 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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