A promoted New York Times Twitter trend for paywall talk

If you’re a journalist on Twitter today, it’s probably an understatement to say this morning’s announcement of The New York Times’ digital subscription plan is blowing up your Twitter stream. But here’s something interesting we noticed: The Times is using a promoted trend (#NYTimesNews) to spread the word on the new pricing plans.

We’ve been down this road before, notably with the Washington Post on Election Day, and more recently when Al Jazeera English was trying to capture support for carrying the network here in the states. It’s a proven method of trying to spread a message or cultivate conversation on Twitter, as companies hope users take the flag (the promoted flag) and run with it.

That’s certainly the case with the #NYTimesNews trend — although they’re often running with mixed-to-outright-negative (along with the occasional “WHY ISN’T BIEBER TRENDING”) reactions from the Twitter world:

The Times plan, while obviously aimed at getting people to actually lay down the money for their product, has the side effect of triggering a broader discussion on the value of journalism that’s important to you. Those big discussions seem to come with everything the Times does, but it was one thing when the discussions were abstract. Now that we see the choices to be made, well, that’s when things start getting real.

One thing to think about in all of this: Who are the people taking part in the #NYTimesNews debate? Are they largely the fly-by audience who may not even see a change to how they read the Times, or are they the “bumpers,” as Ken Doctor might say, who’ll have to make a choice? Or does their presence on Twitter indicate they’ll keep happily entering through the social-media side door the Times is leaving open?

Call it the Frank Rich Discount: The Sunday New York Times moves from premium product to loss leader — and the best deal for digital access

It’s a truism that subscribing to a newspaper (in America, at least) never actually covered the cost of reporting, printing, and delivery. The traditional breakdown for a U.S. paper was 80 percent of revenue from advertising, 20 percent from circulation revenue. The goal was as mass an audience as you could assemble, so newspapers were willing to subsidize a low cost for the end user — 25 cents at the newsstand! eight bucks a month and we’ll hire a child to deliver it to your front lawn — to reap the rewards in ad dollars.

But that was before the Internet, and the circulation story of the past few years has been newspapers hiking their circulation prices — arguing that, as subscribers drop dead or discover the Internet, the loyal few(er) who remain should pay more of the freight. The Boston Globe now runs $637 a year for 7-day home delivery; The New York Times costs $769. Price increases like those have led to realities that would have seemed bizarre to a newspaper owner in 1980, like NYT circulation revenue actually passing ad revenue for a quarter.

But the new New York Times paywall announced today is, in some odd way, a return to that drive for print circulation at all costs: The Times is now actively subsidizing both the print paper and delivery. It’s now less than free — considering the high rates they’ll now be charging for online access and that the full digital bundle will come free with any print subscription. And yet, if my math is right, it’ll actually make the Times more money.

Let’s say you’re a multiplatform kind of guy and you like the Times’ stories on the web, on your iPhone, and on your nifty new iPad. How much will that cost you?

Option 1: You can buy their top-tier “All Digital Access” bundle, which gives you nytimes.com in a browser, the Times’ iPhone app, and the Times’ iPad app for $35 every four weeks — or, since that odd timetable sneaks in a 13th payment each year, $455 a year.

Option 2: You can subscribe to Sunday-only home delivery of the Times, which comes with the “All Digital Access” bundle at no extra charge. Your cost, at least if you live in the Boston area: $30 every four weeks, or $390 a year.

That’s right: The New York Times will now pay you 65 bucks a year to accept the Sunday paper into your life. (And onto your lawn, although probably not delivered by a child at this point.)

Call it the Frank Rich Discount, in honor of the just-departed Sunday Times columnist who moved to New York magazine a few clicks before the paywall’s arrival.

Who counts as a subscriber?

The Internet has thrown the definition of a “subscription” into a blender, but generally speaking, the Audit Bureau of Circulations has demanded that, for something to count as a subscription, the customer has to pay something for it. That’s why we’ve seen such shenanigans with the pricing of digital-replica e-editions, whose actual usage ranks somewhere around that of cassingles and Commodore 64s, but which get counted as “subscriptions” even if they charge even a penny over the home delivery rate.

But for this subset of digitally oriented subscribers — a subset I suspect will shortly include me — the Times isn’t even getting that penny. They’re giving up 125 of them every week for the privilege of putting a +1 to the print subscriber total that they show to advertisers. Who would have thought the Sunday New York Times — the inarguable jewel of American newspapering, the single most expensive and single most prestigious artifact of a centuries-old industry — would be turned into a loss leader, the equivalent of the Safeway pricing milk and sugar cheap so you’ll come in and pay the big bucks on frozen dinners?

But here’s the wrinkle that makes this a sensible choice for the Times. While it’s possible that the Times has cut a special deal with Apple, the more likely version of events is this: A print subscriber who gets “free” access to the digital bundle lets the NYT Co. keep 100 percent of the subscription revenue generated. A digital-only subscriber — at least any who pay from inside iPhone and iPad apps — will have 30 percent of his revenue sent to Apple. If that’s true — and it fits with what we’ve been told — then the Frank Rich Discount actually makes the Times an extra $71.50 a year for those customers.

That’ll pay for at least some of the gas in the delivery trucks. And it means that, if your (worthy) goal is to support the Times, but you don’t really want a daily print newspaper, the Frank Rich Discount is the most cost efficient way to do it. You save more money ($65 a year), the Times makes more money ($71.50 a year, at least before delivery/printing costs), and you get an actual, physical Will Shortz crossword puzzle to fill out every week.

What to do with the paper?

The only tradeoff of the Frank Rich Discount is that you have to take the Sunday paper, whether you want it or not. Not a great hardship, surely, but some folks really don’t want a new four-pound stack of newsprint every weekend to instill a sense of civic-minded guilt in the whole family.

So maybe it’s time for some creative solutions. Want the digital bundle? Subscribe to the Sunday paper, get the digital bundle for (less than) free — but have the Sunday Times delivered to a local library instead of your house. Or a community center, or a nursing home. Or, if you’re feeling cheeky, maybe directly to a recycling center, or a Boy Scout camp for kindling? That moves the Frank Rich Discount from win-win to win-win-win.

Call it the Frank Rich Discount: The Sunday New York Times moves from premium product to loss leader — and the best deal for digital access

It’s a truism that subscribing to a newspaper (in America, at least) never actually covered the cost of reporting, printing, and delivery. The traditional breakdown for a U.S. paper was 80 percent of revenue from advertising, 20 percent from circulation revenue. The goal was as mass an audience as you could assemble, so newspapers were willing to subsidize a low cost for the end user — 25 cents at the newsstand! eight bucks a month and we’ll hire a child to deliver it to your front lawn — to reap the rewards in ad dollars.

But that was before the Internet, and the circulation story of the past few years has been newspapers hiking their circulation prices — arguing that, as subscribers drop dead or discover the Internet, the loyal few(er) who remain should pay more of the freight. The Boston Globe now runs $637 a year for 7-day home delivery; The New York Times costs $769. Price increases like those have led to realities that would have seemed bizarre to a newspaper owner in 1980, like NYT circulation revenue actually passing ad revenue for a quarter.

But the new New York Times paywall announced today is, in some odd way, a return to that drive for print circulation at all costs: The Times is now actively subsidizing both the print paper and delivery. It’s now less than free — considering the high rates they’ll now be charging for online access and that the full digital bundle will come free with any print subscription. And yet, if my math is right, it’ll actually make the Times more money.

Let’s say you’re a multiplatform kind of guy and you like the Times’ stories on the web, on your iPhone, and on your nifty new iPad. How much will that cost you?

Option 1: You can buy their top-tier “All Digital Access” bundle, which gives you nytimes.com in a browser, the Times’ iPhone app, and the Times’ iPad app for $35 every four weeks — or, since that odd timetable sneaks in a 13th payment each year, $455 a year.

Option 2: You can subscribe to Sunday-only home delivery of the Times, which comes with the “All Digital Access” bundle at no extra charge. Your cost: $30 every four weeks, or $390 a year.

That’s right: The New York Times will now pay you 65 bucks a year to accept the Sunday paper into your life. (And onto your lawn, although probably not delivered by a child at this point.)

Call it the Frank Rich Discount, in honor of the just-departed Sunday Times columnist who moved to New York magazine a few clicks before the paywall’s arrival.

Who counts as a subscriber?

The Internet has thrown the definition of a “subscription” into a blender, but generally speaking, the Audit Bureau of Circulations has demanded that, for something to count as a subscription, the customer has to pay something for it. That’s why we’ve seen such shenanigans with the pricing of digital-replica e-editions, whose actual usage ranks somewhere around that of cassingles and Commodore 64s, but which get counted as “subscriptions” even if they charge even a penny over the home delivery rate.

But for this subset of digitally oriented subscribers — a subset I suspect will shortly include me — the Times isn’t even getting that penny. They’re giving up 125 of them every week for the privilege of putting a +1 to the print subscriber total that they show to advertisers. Who would have thought the Sunday New York Times — the inarguable jewel of American newspapering, the single most expensive and single most prestigious artifact of a centuries-old industry — would be turned into a loss leader, the equivalent of the Safeway pricing milk and sugar cheap so you’ll come in and pay the big bucks on frozen dinners?

But here’s the wrinkle that makes this a sensible choice for the Times. While it’s possible that the Times has cut a special deal with Apple, the more likely version of events is this: A print subscriber who gets “free” access to the digital bundle lets the NYT Co. keep 100 percent of the subscription revenue generated. A digital-only subscriber — at least any who pay from inside iPhone and iPad apps — will have 30 percent of his revenue sent to Apple. If that’s true — and it fits with what we’ve been told — then the Frank Rich Discount actually makes the Times an extra $71.50 a year for those customers.

That’ll pay for at least some of the gas in the delivery trucks. And it means that, if your (worthy) goal is to support the Times, but you don’t really want a daily print newspaper, the Frank Rich Discount is the most cost efficient way to do it. You save more money ($65 a year), the Times makes more money ($71.50 a year, at least before delivery/printing costs), and you get an actual, physical Will Shortz crossword puzzle to fill out every week.

What to do with the paper?

The only tradeoff of the Frank Rich Discount is that you have to take the Sunday paper, whether you want it or not. Not a great hardship, surely, but some folks really don’t want a new four-pound stack of newsprint every weekend to instill a sense of civic-minded guilt in the whole family.

So maybe it’s time for some creative solutions. Want the digital bundle? Subscribe to the Sunday paper, get the digital bundle for (less than) free — but have the Sunday Times delivered to a local library instead of your house. Or a community center, or a nursing home. Or, if you’re feeling cheeky, maybe directly to a recycling center, or a Boy Scout camp for kindling? That moves the Frank Rich Discount from win-win to win-win-win.

Questioning Walter Lippmann and our methods of journalism training

Editor’s Note: Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with its spring issue, which spotlights the efforts of reporters trying to uncover corruption. We’re highlighting a few entries that connect with subjects we follow in the Lab, but go read the whole issue. In this piece, James Miller of the University of London’s Center for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths writes about different approaches to journalism training.

Walter Lippmann complained in 1919 that American journalists were doing the work of “preachers, revivalists, prophets and agitators.” They reported the news “by entirely private and unexamined standards.” People would look back, Lippmann observed acidly in his book Liberty and the News, and wonder how nations that thought themselves to be self-governing “provided no genuine training schools for the [journalists] upon whose sagacity they were dependent.”

Lippmann considered making training in schools of journalism a requirement for the job. But what he really wanted, philosophically, was to model the practice of journalism on science, which had successfully harnessed the “discipline of modernized logic.” Decades later, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, in The Elements of Journalism, were still pursuing the same possibly illusive end, encouraging newspeople to adopt the rigor of their five “intellectual principles of a science of reporting.” If the dream of a scientific journalism has yet to be fulfilled, the more prosaic of Lippmann’s visions seems to have been realized.

Keep reading »

Questioning Walter Lippmann and our methods of journalism training

Editor’s Note: Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with its spring issue, which spotlights the efforts of reporters trying to uncover corruption. We’re highlighting a few entries that connect with subjects we follow in the Lab, but go read the whole issue. In this piece, James Miller of the University of London’s Center for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths writes about different approaches to journalism training.

Walter Lippmann complained in 1919 that American journalists were doing the work of “preachers, revivalists, prophets and agitators.” They reported the news “by entirely private and unexamined standards.” People would look back, Lippmann observed acidly in his book Liberty and the News, and wonder how nations that thought themselves to be self-governing “provided no genuine training schools for the [journalists] upon whose sagacity they were dependent.”

Lippmann considered making training in schools of journalism a requirement for the job. But what he really wanted, philosophically, was to model the practice of journalism on science, which had successfully harnessed the “discipline of modernized logic.” Decades later, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, in The Elements of Journalism, were still pursuing the same possibly illusive end, encouraging newspeople to adopt the rigor of their five “intellectual principles of a science of reporting.” If the dream of a scientific journalism has yet to be fulfilled, the more prosaic of Lippmann’s visions seems to have been realized.

Keep reading »

The Newsonomics of The New York Times’ pay fence

Editor’s Note: Each week, Ken Doctor — author of Newsonomics and longtime watcher of the business side of digital news — writes about the economics of news for the Lab.

It’s official — and the world still turns. After 14 months of planning, The New York Times is finally launching its pay system, starting in the U.S. March 28. It’s been a gestation period longer than a manatee’s, due to customer-service identification and coordination issues, tech development schedules, pricing thinking (and rethinking), and new tablet relaunch preparations. As I wrote earlier this week (“NYT’s Good Timing on Pay Launch, Amid News Chaos“), its timing is remarkably good — playing to the astounding iPad 2 launch, big news around the world, and a growing sense of the Times’ outsized importance as media chaos multiplies.

The Times’ approach is simple on the surface. It has adopted the metered approach pioneered, since 2002, by the Financial Times. It will offer digital readers about 20 article views a month without paying, with all kinds of exceptions for commercial pages, section fronts, big breaking news (as it decides), search and social traffic and ”Top News” on smartphones and tablets. Unlike some daily efforts, like the just-launched pay system at The Dallas Morning News, or The Times of London’s recent one, or the long-standing one at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, it won’t lock up all its proprietary data, allowing readers to make their choice of those 20 views. That’s a positive in my view, maintaining a far less scary open look and inviting in samplers — good for ad selling and customer development.

Its initial pricing — and it’s worth noting that all of this is initial; the FT, for example, has been tweaking pricing and access rules for nine years — is $15 per four weeks (now that’s a newspaper model, eschewing what most humans call “months,” to revenue advantage) for a desktop/laptop + smartphone bundle, or $20 per four weeks for desktop + laptop + tablet or, finally, $35 per four weeks for “all digital access.” Print subscribers of any kind get digital access newly included at no extra cost.

It’s a high price, a gamble, and a big hedge — see Test 5 below — against print subscribers migrating too quickly to the tablet. Since it is not charging print subs, it’s going to be an uphill battle to get non-print people to pay a minimum of $195 a year for something that was free, and it eschews conventional wisdom that $9.95 a month is a consumer limit on many digital items. The lack of an annual offer is glaring, and makes it far less friendly to expense accounts for business readers.

Though the FT and the Wall Street Journal have long operated successful pay models, the Times’ leap is a big one: The Times isn’t mainly a business newspaper. If it can succeed charging readers for “general news,” that’s a milestone for newspapers around the world. Most fundamentally, it adds a second leg — digital circulation revenue — to the new business model for newspaper companies. Fifteen years into the Internet, they’ve proven to themselves that digital advertising money alone won’t sustain their newsrooms in the years ahead, as print continues its inevitable decline.

The Times now faces big tests, and lots of watchful eyes from legions of critics. I’ve identified seven tests of the Times’ new pay fence. (I call it a fence because it is climbable and purposely porous, so “paywall” doesn’t apply well.) Even if it passes all seven tests, that doesn’t mean it’s ready for a graduation celebration. Passing grades just let it move on to the next class, which involves the further development of a sustainable, tablet-inflected business model meant for the digital/print hybrid age into which we’re moving.

The seven tests:

Test One: Cross the one percent line

The Times has about 32 million monthly unique visitors in the United States, out of 45 million worldwide. While all are potential customers, its U.S. population is the first, key market. Something less than a million people are 7-day subscribers to the print paper (more on Sunday), and they’ll get digital access (“The Newsonomics of Overnight Customers“) included in their print subs. The Times knows that a great number of those uniques are Google-sent “fly-by” traffic; only a tiny percentage of visitors will ever pay.

How tiny? Maybe one, two, or three percent.

So one percent would be about 300,000 digital-only subs. Two percent would be, of course, twice that, 600,000. Three percent — probably a dream, at this point — at 900,000.

Let’s take the $20 price point as an average sales price, figuring both that tablets will drive sales and that smartphone-only and all-access digital subs will balance themselves out. At $20 per month, that’s about $78 million a year in digital circulation revenue — a new line item. Double it and you have $156 million a year.

Let’s put that number in perspective. The New York Times Media group — essentially the Times — took in $683 million in circulation revenue in 2010. So a one-percent digital success rate would yield a 11 percent increase in circulation revenue, if print revenue stays flat (which it won’t). Not bad, but not world-beating. Two percent, or a 22 percent increase on the print base, would be something to shout about — and a great platform for growth. Three percent is an almost magical number: $230 million a year. Even if the new scheme works, it will take some time to get there.

Test Two: Dispel the ghost of TimesSelect

Just the thought of revisiting The Times’ first foray into “paid content” may have sent ace columnist Frank Rich scurrying away before the fence could come down. TimesSelect erected barriers to columnists and other premium content, confusing readers until it ended its short run in September 2007. It brought in only about $10 million a year — worth comparing to the new results — from about 300,000 non-print subscriber customers. (Another number worth remembering.)

The uncertainty of TimesSelect hurt the Times’ overall traffic, as readers weren’t sure where and when they’d run into walls. The Times has taken pains to prevent that problem from recurring, and we can figure that only 20 percent or fewer of digital readers will run into a pay fence at all, as non-payers get those 20 free monthly article views.

If the Times’ new system succeeds, it’s in part because it kept its site looking open and welcoming to samplers.

Test Three: Keep the bumpers coming back

We know that the vast majority of visitors won’t reach the 20-article-view level and won’t bump into the fence. They are fodder for advertising, and a slim few will become more regular users over time. Then, there’s that small percentage — one to three percent — who do pay for digital-only subscriptions, in addition, of course to the print subscribers who will now get “all-access” (Prego: It’s in there!) included at no extra charge. It’s the bumpers — those who do run into the fence and don’t pay up — who are the big concern of the Times.

If they are bumping, they’re consuming a significant number of pages per month. They’re news readers. So figuring out their behavior after they bump is key.

Do they use another browser or account to get more articles? Do they go off to competitive national/global news sites? Which ones? Do they come back the following month and bump again? Or do they say “forget the Times — I’m going elsewhere” and mean it?

This is the group that offers the Times the greatest potential of new digital customers, on the upside, and would be terrible to lose, on the downside. And there’s lots of nuance involved in getting them inside the tent: Targeted special introductory offers, assuming the bumpers can be well-identified, should take advantage of the flexibility of digital marketing, for instance.

Test Four: Keep digital ad revenue steady as she goes

This is the publisher’s corollary of the Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm. The Times Co.’s digital ad business is growing well — accounting for26 percent of its overall ad business in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to CEO Janet Robinson. Yes, reader revenue is a big part of the future business model, but digital advertising is likely to be bigger. In the U.S. alone (and remember that the Times has more than 10 million monthly uniques outside the U.S., potentially more monetizable down the road), digital advertising will reach about $28 billion a year. If the Times could nab another half a percentage point in market share of that still-growing pie, that would amount to $140 million a year, dwarfing new digital circulation money. So the Times is taking pains to keep traffic — especially to advertiser-sought parts of its site — high.

Denise Warren, the Times’ senior vice president of advertising, also heads NYTimes.com — no accident, and the result of the last reorg after Vivian Schiller went to NPR.

Test Five: Make All-Access a big win — and not a big loss

How does digital bundle pricing affect print circulation? The hoped-for genius of All-Access pricing — print + desktop + laptop + smartphone + tablet — is that it slows down print loss, or churn, as it’s known. If The New York Times slows down print loss by 1 percent a year, that would mean about $7 million a year in circulation revenue. Slow it down by 2 percent and you save $14 million a year. All-Access pricing says to print subscribers: “You’ve now got digital that other people have to pay for, so just enjoy the whole bundle (and don’t consider dropping your subscription).”

Or All-Access could prove to be an historic folly. It could actually increase churn, as readers compare the $600-a-year-plus for an undiscounted 7-day NYT sub against the digital bundle prices, starting at $195 annually and up to $455. If digital bundle pricing hastens the digital transition, especially from print to tablet, then the Times loses not just the print revenue, but the ad revenue that’s attached to that circulation — before the tablet has matured as a replacement ad medium, yielding as much per digital customer (or close to it) as the print newspaper does.

The nervousness about how to treat print subscribers is obvious. Like The Dallas Morning News, the Times isn’t charging print subscribers anything extra for digital access. Consequently, the Times could be leaving lots of money on the table. If print subscribers paid a small $5 a month for access (adding less than 10 percent to their overall bills), that would open up a big new revenue stream. It could, though, also hasten that print to tablet move — so the Times is erring on the side of caution.

There’s no rulebook here, and all newspapers testing these waters are nervous, consequently, about the initial digital pricing. Listen to NYT competitor and WSJ publisher Les Hinton talk last week about the print/online/mobile transition — noting its inevitability, but then pointing to the ungainly and hard-to-control process ahead: “The issue is balancing out the migration.”

Test Six: Remain part of the conversation

Though the national conversation lately feels a lot more like bouts of yelling interrupted by tragedy, the Times and Times watchers are concerned that it remain part of the daily dialogue. That means an accessible flow of both news and commentary.

The open nature of the metered system is intended to preserve that while balancing revenue goals. How open the Times will be to social traffic is a big consideration, as social traffic is the fastest growing source of all traffic, and represents a more engaged audience than search-driven visitors. But maintaining high Google rankings is also key for growth — and influence.

Text Seven: Keep improving the product(s)

Let’s remember that the launch is just a moment in time. The pay model will play out over months and years, as publishers seek to reverse more than a decade of habit, and the free-news world morphs (witness AOL’s comings and goings) all around it.

We as consumers won’t be making a one-time decision. We expect that the news products (and services) we’re offered will get better over time.

Tablet products should fully embrace the wondrous potential of the platform. HTML5 should revolutionize the browser experience. The Times is working on both.

Over the years, the Times has thrown lots of products at the wall — Times Skimmer, TimesPeople, Times Topics, Times Reader, among others. It’s thrown so many that most of us don’t have time to track them or use them, no matter how useful they might be. Its product challenge in 2011-12: Match the journalism of the Times with a singular, surpassing everyday digital experience.

It’s official! And kind of expensive! Here are the details of The New York Times’ new stab at a paywall

It’s coming up! The New York Times’ long-awaited paywall — whose existence was first announced last January, and whose details have been speculated about ever since — is set to rise on March 28.

So where does the TimesWall rank, on a scale of Picket Fence to Mighty Fortress? Somewhere in the middle: The wall will, as promised, allow for free access to the Times’ homepage as well as free side-door access (via outside links, etc.) to individual Times articles. In the metered-model manner of the Financial Times, you can gaze and graze freely each month until you hit (in the Times’ case) 20 articles. After which: Wall up. Pay up. (Or — maybe? — just hit up The Huffington Post.)

The Times has divided its payment offering into different (and more expensive than many had expected) packages: $15 for a month (actually, more specifically, for four weeks) of access to NYTimes.com and the paper’s smartphone app; $20 for web access and an iPad app; and $35 for an all-access plan. Multiply each of those by 13 to account for the 52 weeks in a year…and the yearly rates get hefty quickly. (Print subscribers, as the Times has said from the get-go, will get digital access included in their subscriptions. That’s true for any subscriber, 7-day-a-week or less — a nice reward for brand loyalty (not to mention a brand new selling point for the next Weekender commercial).)

As for the “pores” in the paywall: They’re there, but they’re not as large as we’d initially thought. While the paper “will allow access to people who visit through search engines like Google and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter,” the Times notes — meaning that, if I link to a Times article, and you click the link, you can view it in its entirety — there’s a big caveat: The articles you can access via Google will be limited to five a day. Which has significant implications not only for news consumers in a networked environment, but also for news producers.

None of those details are surprising. (Other than the prices, which, wow.) In fact, they are — in their general attempt to balance loyal consumers with casual, subscription revenue with ad, open web with walled garden — about what we’ve been expecting since “the metered model” became the Times’ official strategy last January. But it’s nice to know the details so we media-watchers can move our collective obsession from the paywall’s launch date to the much more important aspect of it: its data. Do people care enough about the Times, as a brand, to pay for content that they can generally get somewhere else? Given the myriad side-door options for article entry, do they care enough about convenience to pay a premium for a friction-free news experience? Are you going to subscribe? (Let us know in the comments.)

It’ll be interesting to see how users react to a suddenly-not-free New York Times — because, of course, the paper’s paywall isn’t just a meter but a metaphor. As Times opinionator Robert Wright put it in a column discussing the just-announced model last year: “Salvation (for Newspapers) Is at Hand.” So: Will the wall bring salvation for a biz-model-challenged paper — and, by extension, industry? Or will it go the way of TimesSelect, sacrificing traffic and and revenue and prestige in the process?

The answer will come, as in so many other aspects of contemporary journalism, from the readers. For today, though, the details are big news — about as big as you can get in our little corner of the world — and we’ll have more coverage of them coming up later today. Meanwhile, as you ponder whether to hand over your credit card to the Times’ jaunty hat-tipper, here are some of our past takes on the TimesWall and its consequences:

Jason Fry’s analysis of how the Times of London’s pay model differs from The New York Times

Five tips of charging for content from WSJ.com editor Alan Murray

The Dallas Morning News’ publisher Jim Moroney on his paper’s just-erected paywall

Jonathan Stray’s game of Paywall!, a to-fence-or-not-to-fence decision-maker

Ken Doctor on the decline of the 80/20 rule in newspapers

A roundup of expert opinions on whether the Times’ metered model will work