NATE SILVER: Paywall Wasn't A 'Net Positive' When Deciding To Join NYT

nate silver

Nate Silver is not so sure about The New York Times’ paywall.

The FiveThirtyEight blogger, who took his site under the NYT umbrella in the summer of 2010, says as much in a discussion of the plan he posted Thursday afternoon.

“Let me say up front that I have some mixed feelings about The New York Times‘ metered model, which takes effect on March 28,” he writes in the first sentence.

Later, he provides a statistical analysis of why the paper of record should be able to charge for news. The basic conclusion: It is one of the best sources of all-around news that exists on the planet.

Totally fair and accurate.

But another section caught our eye. Silver discusses his decision to join the NYT, and while he does not have a “philosophical objection to pay models,” he sounds a little disappointed that FiveThirtyEight is now behind a paywall… even an admittedly porous one.

“Given that FiveThirtyEight is my current business and that my readers are used to reading as much of its content as they want, I would not have moved it to The New York Times had it been planning on a more rigid ‘paywall’ structure, like that employed by The Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal.”

We asked Silver for some clarification, and he obliged with an email explanation. It involved lists, of course.

“I had a lot of good options for what to do with FiveThirtyEight last year, including keeping it independent,” he wrote. “And the choice mostly boiled down to qualitative factors rather than the economics of the offers.

So imagine that you’re making a list of all the pluses and minuses of each option — I wouldn’t say that the fact that The Times was going to adopt a pay model was a net positive in its column. But it was outweighed by the many other positives of coming to the NYT. I just think there’s so much great writing and great journalism there, and I think people sometimes take for granted how smart they are as a digital media company as well. So I’d like to see them succeed, and to the extent that the pay model can help them to do so, I’m for it.”

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