After months of speculation, the paywall for The New York Times went live at 2pm on Monday, March 28th, which limits online readers (non-print subscribers) to 20 articles each month. For smartphone and tablet applications, only the top news section will remain free and access to other sections will need a subscription.
To understand the initial impact, we compared the total visits to NYTimes.com for a 12 day period before the launch of the pay wall to the 12 days following the launch. For the majority of the days, there was a decrease in the overall visits between 5% and 15%. The one exception was Saturday, April 9th, 2011 where there was a 7% increase, likely due to visitors seeking news around the potential government shutdown and ongoing budget discussions.
The effect of the pay wall has been somewhat stronger upon the total page views for the NYTimes.com, with the same comparison of a 12 day period before the launch of the pay wall to the 12 days following the launch. For all 12 days, there was a decline in total page views which ranged between 11% and 30%.
One caveat to the 20 article limit is to access NYTimes.com through search engines like Google and social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. While using these sources could be a clever workaround for a reader hoping not to pay, to date there has not been a significant difference in the share of upstream traffic from both search and social networks to NYTimes.com before and after the launch of the paywall.