New York Times lifts paywall for video, plans ‘franchises’

The New York Times (s nyt) announced on Tuesday that it will no longer count video views as part of the 10-article limit it imposes on non-subscribers who visit its website. The move comes as part of a plan by the Times to increase its overall video investment and to develop video franchises around its writers and columns.

The free videos, which can be viewed on all desktop and mobile devices, are for now being sponsored by Acura and by Microsoft (s msft).

“We have a desire to grow and invest in our video content,” said NYT executive vice president Denise Warren in a phone interview. “Part of the reason we’re doing this is because we’re already distributing on other channels like YouTube (s goog). Since it’s already available […] it seems inconsistent to keep it behind the gate.”

Warren added that the Times is still in the process of ramping up its video strategy but that its eventual plan is to build franchises around brands associated with the paper. One hypothetical example she cited is the Times’ “36 Hours” travel New York Times paywall videocolumn. Prominent writers may also become video brands (bloggers like Nate Silver seem likely candidates, though Warren refused to name names).

The plan comes at a time when newspapers like the Times and the Wall Street Journal are still learning how to translate their famous brands into a video format. The task is a challenge because the bulk of their editorial staff consists of text-based journalists who don’t necessarily possess the aptitude or charisma for video. In response, the Times has so far adopted a go-slow approach, producing about 60 short videos a week, though Warren says streaming rates took off during the November election and have remained high.

Warren suggested the Times‘ video output will go into high gear in response to the extra advertising investment, and the February arrival of Rebecca Howard from the Huffington Post, who occupies the new position of general manager of video production.

The Times’ decision to offer unlimited video is intriguing because it will test the paper’s ability to master the format, but also because it contrasts with the company’s recent efforts to make its paywall less porous. In recent months, for instance, it has blocked easy tricks that let readers circumvent the article limit.

Here’s a recent example of the Times’ video efforts:

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