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Summary:

It must have sounded like a great idea to someone at News Corp (NSDQ: NWS) at the time: “Hey, I know how we can sell more subscriptions thro…

Custom New York Post Front Page
photo: Staci D. Kramer/via NYP's Make Your Own Cover

It must have sounded like a great idea to someone at News Corp (NSDQ: NWS) at the time: “Hey, I know how we can sell more subscriptions through the New York Post iPad App! Let’s block access through iPad Safari and make them go to the app instead.” What they should have heard: “Hey, let’s make our editorial content as inaccessible and irrelevant as possible and send iPad users to other options. Oh, and at the same time, let’s take three giant steps back.”

Even better, apparently no one there noticed or cared that users of other iPad browsers like Skyfire and Opera Mini can slip right in.

It is one of the most poorly conceived paywall efforts I’ve come across — and I’ve seen more than a few.

It was annoying but understandable marketing when the Post pitched the iPad app via an interstitial that popped up whenever you followed a link. (The first few times I wound up skipping the article because it wasn’t clear that I could get to it after seeing the promo.) The Post has been clear from the beginning about wanting to make money from app.

What makes this different from News Corp sibling The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times or other news outlets limiting access to digital content in the hopes of gaining subscription revenue? The NYP literally is blocking the web for a subset of users (usually that’s left to totalitarian regimes), targeting the way someone accesses the web to keep readers out. You can’t even see the front page or the day’s front/back cover images. For iPad users relying on Safari, it is as though the site exists only as a billboard for an app.

It’s also broken access from the NYP‘s own Facebook page. Click on a link from within Safari and you end up at the redirect page. The June 17 iPad update brags about adding direct access to NYPost.com from the app as a new feature.

The paper recently discontinued New York Post Pix, its first app, telling users they would have to download the New York Post App for access. The photo app, which was one of the best early iPad apps, was supported by advertising. Nowhere does the notice to download a new app say a paid subscription is required and I never saw any effort to convert users to paid users. (Also, my saved photos were removed.)

Subscription through the app runs $6.99/month, $39.99/six months or $74.99/year; no single-issue option. [To clarify: downloading the app costs $1.99; that comes with 30 days access.) Print subscriptions run $3.50/week, $14/month or $182/year, 22 percent off newsstand. There's also a $2.50 a week option for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Digital access isn't included. The NYP offers a separate e-edition through Newspaper Direct that runs up to $26/year.

It feels like a misguided effort to recreate the Post as another Murdoch tabloid, the app-only The Daily. The digital tabloid drew some criticism when it launched earlier this year as an iPad app without a full companion website; instead, users can share some articles online via .pdf. The Daily, designed completely as an in-app paper, plans to launch an Android version. But The Daily treats everyone the same: pay for the app and you get full access.

The NYP is trying to have its virtual cake and eat it, too.

Breaking the web: To Dave Winer, who wrote about the change earlier today, the NYP is "breaking the web":

Today I was told by the Post that I couldn't read the article on the web at all. If I wanted to read the Post on my iPad I would have to download the app.

Okay this is bad. This is breaking the web. If no one used the iPad it wouldn't matter. But lots of people use it.

I wonder how Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) feels about this? I can't imagine they like it. I can see the ads now. "Get an Android tablet to read the web."

  1. Who reads the New York Post?

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  2. Brain Hertz Sunday, June 19, 2011

    It’s even dumber than it sounds; the browser self-identifies to the server in a non-secure way. The “user agent” string that the browser sends along is just a helpful hint to the website in case it needs to work around any quirks of particular browsers.

    Most browsers have a plugin available that allows the user to decide how they want to identify themselves. For instance, if you’re using Firefox you can just decide to tell the server that you’re actually using Opera or IE.I don’t have an iPad, so I can’t say for sure that there’s a plugin for iPad Safari that allows users to identify themselves as using something else, but I’d be kind of shocked if there wasn’t.

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  3. Easy to defeat – just type: m.nypost.com and you go straight past it.

    Looks like a rubbish publication so not sure why you’d bother anyway.

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    1. Staci D. Kramer Sunday, June 19, 2011

      Using m.nypost.com goes to the redirect page now.

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      1. Angry Penguin Monday, June 20, 2011

        Looks like the N Y Post will disappear up its own rectum. Good riddance to it. Treating a subset of users as cash cows is unethical. They deserve to get their asses sued into oblivion.

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        1. I think the strategy is a poor one, but sued? Really? On what basis?

          If you can find a judge who would not throw out such a suit at the first opportunity, I guess you deserve all the money you can extort.

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  4. Isn’t android also using the webkit engine?

    And what makes you so sure they wouldn’t block it too?

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  5. Even if the Yew York Post blocks access via Safari they wont be able to sell enough subscriptions to save the newspaper. There is no need to read newspapers on an iPad when they are all on the open Internet.

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  6. SerenityLodge Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Well, I don’t own an iPad,yet. However, on my iPhone 4, I have no problem accessing NYP with Safari. So I kinda doubt this story.

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    1. The whole story centers around iPads being blocked. You admit to not having one, but since you have no problem accessing the website from an iPhone 4, which was not mentioned in the article, you proceed to cast doubt over the complete story?

      Wow.

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  7. @ SerenityLodge – the story is fact. The site blocks iPads. What part of that do you doubt? 

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  8. If you’re going to copy and paste a quote into your article, you might want to check to see whether it brought anything with it first, like the two instances of “Permanent link to this item in the archive.”

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    1. Staci D. Kramer Sunday, June 19, 2011

      Thanks. I caught the code but missed that text. The link is above the quote.

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  9. Best Practice? Monday, June 20, 2011

    What does everyone think of an interstitial or roadblock that simply promotes the app (including special features in a native app not available via wed) but then has a “no thanks, take me to the web” button/option??

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  10. Best Practice? Monday, June 20, 2011

    web, not wed!  :-)

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