As I noted yesterday, web donation network Kachingle has launched a good-natured guerrilla marketing campaign to allow Kachingle users to financially support any of NYTimes.com’s 50-plus bloggers. The theme is “Stop the Paywall!” (as in, NYTimes.com’s upcoming “metered paywall,” set to debut in early 2011) … “Keep the NYT Blogs you love in the open web.”
And as I predicted yesterday, Times executives have decided to put their lawyers on the case and send a cease and desist order to Kachingle founder Cynthia Typaldos and CEO Fred Dewey. So, rather than let an innovative marketing campaign by a tiny company run its course, Times executives are doing Kachingle a potentially big favor by flexing their legal muscles.
If this gets much press/Twitter/blogosphere attention, then Kachingle will benefit from a big boost in visibility. (Perhaps NYTimes.com could run a news story about the dispute!)
Typaldos today blogged about her encounter yesterday with Times executives: “But we love you The New York Times. My conversation with Mr. Digital and Mr. Legal and Mr. Paywall.” In her blog item, she recounted the discussion and reported that she would be receiving a letter soon:
“They said they were going to send us a legal document via FedEx called a ‘cease and desist’ order. I have never received one of these before so it’s going to be quite exciting. As soon as it arrives I will scan it and post.”
It doesn’t sound like Typaldos intends to back down:
“I told the three NYTimes executives that we have the same goal — saving the NYTimes Blogs from obscurity. Finding a new business model for news. At Kachingle we passionately believe that paywalls are truly bad … they cut off information from the open web, they dampen social discourse, they exclude people all over the world who cannot afford to be nickel-and-dimed-and-quartered-and-dollared for quality content. We believe paywalls are the enemy of democracy. We believe in our mission, and we will not back down.
While I can’t imagine it’s fun to be threatened by a huge media company’s lawyers (and there are financial risks in fighting back, of course), there’s clearly potential for an upside. I’m reminded of a former business partner (our company died in a bit less than two years from launch) who, when traffic to our websites failed to grow sufficiently fast enough, bemoaned that we needed something that would make a bigger splash. Getting sued by a big media or other company and the accompanying publicity and controversy would certainly do the trick, he said. I don’t believe he was joking. (He was a veteran of several previous Internet start-ups, and now is a partner at one that’s doing very well.)
I’ll keep watch on what happens next and report any interesting developments.
(Disclaimer: I have written about Kachingle in the past as a former columnist, and in this blog; I’ve also done a small amount of consulting for the company.)