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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.”