There's a great new documentary about the modern New York Times making its way around the festival circuit, but the best underscore for the new digital subscription plans comes from a scene in another new film: the Conan O'Brien documentary, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop.
After announcing his post-Tonight-Show live tour, Conan is humbled by the news that he's sold out some of his biggest venues within a few hours... long before even he knows what his act will be.
"There's nothing to motivate you to put on a show like selling a bunch of tickets," he quips.
Erecting a paywall is a lot like selling tickets to a show that many people are accustomed to seeing for free-- the pressure first and foremost is to make it worthwhile. The functions of newspapers and magazines have value, it's historically true and it can be true online. But whatever value they can attain in today's climate of content farming is in direct proportion to quality.
The easiest way to make a bitter pill like a paywall go down smoothly is to remind readers daily how enriched their lives are because good journalism is a part of it. That means thoughtful, well-informed writing and breathtaking multimedia content.
Flaws aside, it's tough to think of a better organization to set that standard than The New York Times.