The people who sign up for the Lincoln promotion arenâ€™t handing over their credit-card numbers: they wonâ€™t automatically start getting billed when the promotion expires in 2012. And theyâ€™ll also learn that if youâ€™re not a subscriber, you get shown offers for a free subscription.
Would not the lesson of Salon.com be of preeminent value here? They started out as a free service supported by advertising, moved behind a paywall similar to one NYT is trying to implement, had a nice twist on the pay-per-article approach and now seem to have switched to an NPR-like model of user donations and appreciation (plus display advertising). Does not seem to be working out too well for them, but of course NYT is a much bigger brand with a much bigger (longer? deeper?) reach.
The nice twist Salon.com had, as I recall, was that you could have an advertising-free membership, but you could also get a daily pass by watching a 30 second video ad. I really thought that was a great idea. Seemed very fair to me, at least. The Lincoln move for NYT seems very similar, and I hope it works for them. Personally, I believe it will mostly work for brand association and recall, especially if they keep telling me that the daily dose of NYT will be brought to me Lincoln.
I am not sure what it means, for me personally, to be among the 200,000 most heavy users of nytimes.com. Does not feel like an achievement, but if that gets me a “free pass”, I guess that’s good for something.