All Blog Links To The New York Times Will Be Freebies. This Could Get Ugly.

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It’s not news that the New York Times payfence isn’t much of a fence. We’ve already written about the Facebook and Twitter loophole, but it turns out that the loophole is more like a loop chasm.

NYT head Martin Nisenholtz told AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka on Friday that all blog links will be accessible for non-subscribers. And while blog and social media referral visits will count towards the 20 free articles a month allotted, Times articles will not be blocked if a user goes over their limit and clicks on a Times link from an aggregator like Digg or Reddit or a blog like TechCrunch. Users will, however, be out of luck if they subsequently try to go to the Times’ website directly that month.

“Our digital subscriptions have been designed to allow a generous amount of content to be free through various methods. We encourage links from search engines, blogs and social media,” a representative from the Times told me me in an email, asserting that the payfence was built as loose as possible on purpose, in an effort to “maintain [the Times’] significant reach and influence.” And its boast-worthy online circulation of 30 million uniques a month.

The exemptions are a huge vote of confidence in the power of social sharing (Google users are limited to five referral links daily) but also leave open a huge possibility for a plethora of The Daily: Indexed-style hacks. What’s to stop someone from creating a blog that just links to every single New York Times story? Or someone from creating a browser extension that fakes referrals from other publications.

When asked whether Times had a contingency plan for those who tried to game their way around the payfence, VP of Corporate Communications Eileen Murphy told me, “We plan to monitor for abuses and will act on them if appropriate.”

Hmmm … Already the @FreeNYT Twitter account has been set up to collect all Times feeds in one list, exploiting the Twitter loophole. And he blog TechAirlines has detailed instructions on how to set up your browser to look like a Googlebot, one whole week before the wall goes live in the US! Come March 28th, this could get ugly. 

Image via Nieman Journalism Lab