The Reading Room hits a million subscribers

Start spreading the news: the New York Times now has one million digital subscribers. In other words, four and a half years after it set up its metered paywall, a million people are paying to receive the New York Times online or on their mobile phones, rather than choosing to read the old fashioned paper version.

This is undeniably a major achievement for the paper. But important as this news is for the NYT itself, media analysts have already been speculating as to the wider significance of the news for the entire industry. On the one hand, the NYT has surpassed all expectations and may well have the most successful digital paywall ever in newspaper history. Overseas subscribers have played a big part in this. On the other, some have questioned how many actual news stories are being downloaded while others gloomy point out roughly the same number of people are now paying for the New York Times than were doing so in 1995, when the digital option was not available.

Interestingly, the NYT’s second quarter results suggest that the growing revenue from digital subscriptions and advertising helped offset ongoing declines in print advertising contributing an 80% year on year increase in profits.

In contrast, the NYT Now App providing a condensed version of the NYT’s digital version recently flopped and has now been released again for free after an insufficient number of readers were prepared to pay for it.

Ultimately, the tale of the New York Times paywall is a story of success. But how much news are people prepared to pay for? The answer remains unclear.

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