photo © 2006 Sharon Mollerus | more info (via: Wylio)When the details of the New York Times paywall/fence were announced on Thursday, Times PR representatives told press that it would be placing a five article a day limit on Google referrals, and only Google referrals.
This policy has somehow changed over the weekend, as the Times’ Communications Manager Kristin Mason tells me that the five article limit will now extend to “all major search engines.” Apparently the Google-only clause was only specific to the Canadian roll out and will be lifted during when the paywall launches worldwide on March 28th.
“After reviewing our options, we decided to extend the policy of five free clicks per day to all major search engines by the global launch on March 28. Our pre-launch period in Canada was undertaken to enable us to test the systems and fine-tune the model.”
“After reviewing our options” … ? Does this mean that it changed its mind? Did someone at Google make hay about being singled out?
For now the Times isn’t releasing any more information on what it categorizes as a “major” search engine (Bing? Blekko? DuckDuckGo? Nobody?), but the above statement brings up a lot of other questions, namely, “Do other search engines even have this kind of limitation technology already in place?” “How on earth will the ‘Times’ pull this off?”
Unfortunately the Times’ response to all of my subsequent asking was, “We really have nothing more to add to the statement.” We’ve contacted Bing, Google and Blekko about their New York Times paywall plans and I’ll update this post if they’re any more responsive.
But ultimately this news also begs another question, “Can this New York Times paywall model get any more complicated?”
Update: Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan has some ideas on how this policy might come to fruition.
“They’re going to force the others to do this, in my opinion, because they don’t want to be seen as singling out Google. But the only reason Google really seems singled out is because they’ve incredibly admitted that any link from any where will let you through.
The NYT wants its paywall cake and the social media frosting, too, and it really seems to have no foolproof way to have both other than to create a system that will block only fools themselves. And there are plenty of fools, so they’ll get some money off of this. But it’s insane that all the planning and money they apparently invested in this resulted in this laughstock of a plan.”