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Programming The Almighty Buck The Media News

NYT Paywall Cost $40 Million: How? 305

An anonymous reader submits this musing from Philip Greenspun's blog: "Aside from wondering who will pay more than the cost of a Wall Street Journal subscription in order to subscribe to the New York Times, my biggest question right now is how the NY Times spent a reported $40-50 million writing the code (Bloomberg; other sources are consistent). Google was financed with $25 million. The New York Times already had a credit card processing system for selling home delivery. It already had a database management system for keeping track of Web site registrants. What did they spend the $40-50 million on?" Maybe the folks behind CityTime were free on weekends.
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NYT Paywall Cost $40 Million: How?

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  • by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Monday April 04, 2011 @08:14AM (#35706440)

    I can actually see how this happens. Large organizations spending millions and taking years to do something a small team could whip up (and probably do a better job of) in a few months.

    Different team sizes are required for different tasks. Some companies get this and put small teams together and have flexible processes that can scale to project size. Other companies can only do things one way, and that’s where you end up with insanity such as this.

    You end up with layers and layers of process controlling huge unwieldy teams. You spend months just drafting the process by which you’ll operate under, and then it needs to be reviewed and this is before development even begins! You end up with 5 layers of management, each providing no real value to anything... but adding lots of time and cost.

    You’ll need to gather metrics of course, so you need to figure out what metrics you need, and how you will analyse them, and how they will feed back into the dev process. And of course you’ll need someone to actually facilitate all this with some kind of metric crunching tool (which has to be bought and admined as well).

  • by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @08:19AM (#35706484) Homepage Journal


    What else offers so little for so much?

  • A simpler way. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday April 04, 2011 @08:22AM (#35706500)

    Follow the money.

    Someone is getting paid. Find out who and what that person's connection to the person signing off on that expense is.

  • http://politics.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2067216&cid=35703166 [slashdot.org]

    An investment firm is hiring mathematicians. After the first round of interviews, three hopeful recent graduates - a pure mathematician, an applied mathematician, and a graduate in mathematical finance - are asked what starting salary they are expecting. The pure mathematician: "Would $30,000 be too much?" The applied mathematician: "I think $60,000 would be OK." The math finance person: "What about $300,000?" The personnel officer is flabberghasted: "Do you know that we have a graduate in pure mathematics who is willing to do the same work for a tenth of what you are demanding!?" "Well, I thought of $135,000 for me, $135,000 for you - and $30,000 for the pure mathematician who will do the work."

    thank you, SilverHatHacker (1381259) for the joke

  • by fruey ( 563914 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @08:29AM (#35706532) Homepage Journal

    Two well identified principles at work here (and the bigger an organisation, the more likely they are to happen, especially without strong leadership)

    1. Parkinson's law : basically, work spreads out to fill the time that was earmarked to complete a project
    2. Brooks' law : Adding people to a project increases lateness, because the number of communication channels to manage increases as a square of the number of people on a project

    Only very sound management and trusting delegation - along with having a reasonably competent project team in the first place - can make things happen quickly.

  • by rwven ( 663186 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @08:34AM (#35706568)

    I'm a consultant in telecom. I see this every day. I'm convinced that any project, no matter how big can be done by 6 people.

    QFT. In my experience it seems like, for the most part, a small, highly skilled, highly focused team can accomplish at least as much (or in some cases far more) than any large team of developers/architects. Decisions are easier, faster, and cheaper to make when you have a group of people with industry experience and know-how. The amount of code needing to be laid down for most web projects really isn't THAT large....especially when it comes to a project like this NYT example.

    I also think (and this probably goes without saying around here) that a top-heavy management structure is an instant doubling (or probably worse) of time and budget for any project. I was on a development team once that had twice as many people-management and project-management positions as there were developers, and it was an absolute nightmare. Developers ended up sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for someone to actually make a decision and call down the order to act.

  • by jimbrooking ( 1909170 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @09:00AM (#35706782)
    Agreed. Long before most of you were born, i.e., in the 1960s-70s, it was a given that if IBM told you (a customer) that they were putting another 100 people to work on a piece of late software, they were really telling you the project had been killed. And of course there's the classic Mythical Man Month (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mythical_Man-Month) which, of course, no one reads any more.
  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @09:07AM (#35706844) Homepage

    I should point out that the NYT Paywall is apparently a much more complex beast than a simple "pay up to see the articles". What they're trying to do is allow search engines, Twitter, and other social media to drive traffic to them, but at the same time not allow people to regularly read their content for free.

    My guess as to the approximate cost breakdown:
    - consulting fees to convince the top brass to go along with this plan even though the last attempt failed miserably: $20 million
    - project management and business analysis: $10 million
    - profits for the purchase manager's brother-in-law's IT contracting firm: $9 million
    - 8 developers and 2 testers to do the actual work: $1 million
    - Watching online readership plummet again: Priceless.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @09:14AM (#35706928) Homepage Journal

    The sad part is that there *are* good consultants out there. I'm one of them. I'm extremely skilled, knowledgeable, and I bring a lot to the table.

    ...but that's what they all say.

  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @11:10AM (#35708314)

    What they lack is vision.

    You can pull off a big project with a large group of people. Countless people in the past have shown us you can do it, Steve Jobs being the most visible currently. But you need to have vision. You need to have somebody at the top going, "This is what it needs to look like in the end. This is the part you need to work on. Now go do it."

    Most management meetings are more about answering the question that a single, lone visionary would've answered in two minutes, than about actually getting there. Rule by committee isn't only inefficient, it's the perfect way to get nothing done (which is why there are heads of state even in democracies). Management meetings are a form of rule by committee. Is it no wonder then that everything crawls?

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.