The New York Times thinks it's going to get people to pay "$15 every four weeks" — or $195 a year — for the privilege of reading more than 20 articles a calendar month at NYT.com, while simultaneously leaving people free to access an unlimited number of stories a month via Facebook and Twitter.
It looks to me like Facebook director Donald Graham just got a big win over his old rival over the International Herald Tribune Arthur Sulzberger Jr., because Mr. Sulzberger's move just made Facebook that more valuable. All you need is one Facebook friend who pays the $195 — or a group of 30 Facebook friends who each agree to use their 20-story-quota one day a month to post whatever is worth reading that day to Facebook — and your free Facebook account just became worth $195.
It's a good sign for the business of the New York Times that its management understands that social media — Facebook, Twitter — is too important to slam the door on. But it's a bad sign for the business of the New York Times that it doesn't have the pricing power to make those readers pay something.
It'll be interesting to see how the experiment works. It may be that the plan is more about protecting the Times's dwindling print circulation — print subscribers will get free online access — than about generating much new revenue from paying online-only subscribers.