By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A rocky launch for the Times’ paywall

The New York Times has had months to test its online paid-content system. And, as of this morning, it’s a mess.

Last night I tried logging on to the Times’ iPhone app, which, as a subscriber to the Sunday print edition, I am supposed to get for no additional charge. I entered my username and password and got a message telling me to look for a confirmation email. I did. It wasn’t there — not in my inbox and not in my spam folder. I did it again. And again this morning. No dice.

I tweeted, and Greg Reibman, publisher of GateHouse Media’s Metro Boston papers, tweeted back: “Exact same thing happened to me. @nytimes promised email confirmation that never came.”

I also got this, from @NYTdigitalsubs: “Sorry to hear you’re experiencing login issues w/ iPhone. We’re investigating. Stay tuned. Thanks for patience.”

Perfection may be unattainable, but given the resistance to paying for Internet content, the Times needed as smooth a launch as possible. So far, not so good.

On the bright side, I did have a chance to play with the Times’ new iPhone app for a few days before the paywall went up, and it is spectacular. And since the “Top News” section is free to everyone, I was able to read that this morning.

Tuesday afternoon update: @NYTdigitalsubs came up with a workaround — log in as a digital subscriber rather than as a print subscriber. That did the trick. A more complete solution is supposed to be available later today.

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  1. tobe berkovitz

    A bigger problem than charging for content is the convoluted over-complicated structure for the Times pay venture. The NYT should have had the cojones to go WSJ model for all pay, or keep the free model. They are managing to offer the worst of both worlds. Do these folks believe in market research?

  2. Dan Hamilton

    I’ve had various minor technical issues with my NYT print account over the years, so it was with some trepidation that I tried to get everything working on my computer, my wife’s iPad, and my iPhone. It all went very smoothly – no glitches.

  3. Chris Walton

    I had confirmed my home delivery/electronic subscription options a week earlier, and had no trouble at all updating the iPhone app or Times Reader. I like the new app, but since I use an iPod Touch, I’m a bit sad to see that it takes longer to download the content now for offline reading.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Chris: It is a bit slower, isn’t it? Yet there’s so much more stuff there graphically.

  4. Chris Walton

    @Dan, downloading the whole paper this morning took five minutes—but the app now delivers NYT blogs and photos, too. I wish the app consistently showed the timestamp for each article, a feature I like a lot.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Chris: The new app took a long time to download the first time I did it, but the incremental downloads I’ve done since haven’t taken much time at all. Are you finding it’s five minutes every morning? That’s pretty bad.

  5. B.A. DuBois

    I’ve always found the NYT site to be very clunky; I’m a print subscriber and whenever I tried to put in a temporary halt for a vacation delivery, I always got caught in this endless loop where it said I hadn’t logged in correctly… eventually found a work-around where I Googled “how do I suspend my NYT sub” and click on that.

    Aside, what do you think of the revamp of the print mag? So far I despise it — hard to puzzle out what’s ad and copy — and seems to be more flash than substance.

  6. Chris Walton

    @Dan, this morning’s full download took 4 minutes.

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