The New York Times Paywall Is Not That Bad

No more unlimited access to a website. Their explanation sounds cheery enough, but it's still limiting. Is it the worst thing in the world? Nah.

I use the NYTimes iPhone app religiously. But when I think about it, I rarely leave the Latest News tabs. If I do, it's for information that is covered better elsewhere (I.e. Technology, sports). Since the Latest News section will remain free, the new pay wall won't significantly affect my iPhone usage. The only thing that may hurt is losing access to the Opinion section, which is very valuable and unique to the Times. But is that worth paying $15 a month for website and iPhone access? And an extra $20 for iPad access? Nah, I'll just stick with the free articles that I see shared over social networks.

The iPad app is a different story. Because the iPad is a natural reading device, I usually go through quite a bit of stories on the tablet. But again, is it worth $20 a month (or $35 in conjunction with iPhone access)? After all, I was fine with the original iPad app that had limited content.

The price may have been easier to swallow if the limit of free stories wasn't so low. 20 stories a month is less than one story a day! Wouldn't they rather have more eyeballs on the page for their advertisers, as opposed to the few hardcore people that would be reading the content anyway? Arthur Sulzberger, chairman of the Times, stated that he wanted a flexible system where they could adjust the 20 news story a month limit up or down depending on the day's events. This would make sense if the limit was more reasonable, say 20 articles a week. As an example, Sulzberger said that the limit would have been canceled in the wake of 9/11. But .. there is huge news that happens very often, from the BP Oil spill to the Egyptian revolt against Mubarak to the Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami. How will these be "ranked" in terms of the article limit being adjusted?

From my Quora post:

I've had an NY Times online account for about 10 years, and I use the iPad on iPhone apps all of the time. I love the content and believe that it is valuable.

However, the prices are just too high. The Daily charges $4 a month (for admittedly sub par content). The Times should not be five times more than this for the tablet option.

The only way that the Times could get away with this is if they kept completely free - which they aren't. I can understand paying for the improved user experience involved with the iPhone and iPad apps, if the web alternative exists.

There are too many other sources of information available that, while not being as great as the Times, are good enough. This is what the execs don't seem to understand

The Daily Exercise in Futility

When news about The Daily iPad app first surfaced, I thought that it would be the best of both worlds. My hope was that it would combine the traditional tone and long form journalism of the old guard (NYT, WashPost apps) with the realtime and social nature of the web (Flipboard).

The great thing about these three apps is that they have intuitive user interfaces that load quickly and allow you to browse efficiently to get to whatever you are interested in at a particular moment. I can get in, get what I want quickly, and get out, like those hilarious Windows Phone commercials. Or, I can just browse around and find articles that I wouldn't normally select out of a list. Overall, these apps replicate my pre-Internet newspaper reading experience (Yes Virginia, there was a world before the Internet).

My hopes have been dashed. After using the Daily ... well, daily since it released, several things have irked me about me. Some of the more glaring issues have already been patched, most notably the constant crashing.

These two problems rank the highest on my list of irritations:


1) Load time is sloooowwwww!.

I tried to update the app at 5:30pm after work, and it took about 3 minutes to download. This is WAY too long. I ruled out any network issues because performance was fine before and after the update. To make it even worse, I previously updated the app this morning at 6am. After the painful update, there were only minor additions in te paper. WHAT was it downloading all of that time!?


2) The audio feature is borked

I love, love the idea of having audio. When I am getting ready in the morning, I usually listen to the NPR hourly update and a few on demand stories that I can easily see in a menu and quickly add to a playlist.

Unfortunately, none of this exists in the Daily. There is no menu implementation of any kind to see what stories have audio - there's just an audio button on the main screen. Press that, and it automatically scrolls to the cover page of the first article with audio. Want to read that article while the audio plays? Too bad, that shuts off the audio. Want to skip past it? The only way to do that is to turn audio off, and back up. If you press the forward button, which is located next to the audio button, it simply scrolls to the next story (that may or may not have audio) and shuts off the audio. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Oh, and how in the world can a high profile release not support background audio while multitasking?

In it's current implementation, I don't get much use out of the Daily. The slow loading time makes it impratical to use while not connected to wifi, and the rudimentary audio features does not allow me to easily listen to audio from stories of my choosing. If these two issues are fixed, I'm all on board. Your move, Murdoch.