Posted January 20, 2010 12:17 pm by with 3 comments

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After a long debate, the New York Times has officially settled on an online pay model and and implementation timeline. The meter system will be introduced at the beginning of next year.

The model will allow users to access a certain number of articles free each month. After the set viewing threshold, users will be required to pay. Print subscribers will have free access online. Says the Times:

This will enable to create a second revenue stream and preserve its robust advertising business. It will also provide the necessary flexibility to keep an appropriate ratio between free and paid content and stay connected to a search-driven Web.

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman and publisher of the New York Times, said, “Our audiences are very loyal and we believe that our readers will pay for our award-winning digital content and services.” According to Nielsen Online, the Times is the #1 newspaper site in the world, so they may just have enough support to do this.

Romenesko also has posted a memo to the Times staff on the upcoming change (via). In the memo, Sulzberger acknowledges that this move will be lauded by some and criticized by others, just as the management debated it. Ultimately, he says, this move will be judged by its implementation, which is why they’re giving themselves so long to run up to the process. In the meantime, they will also work on improving the site, its users’ experience and its stickiness.

Sulzberger explains their reasoning behind this pay model choice, echoing some of the press release wording:

We also selected the metered model because it offers a number of important virtues from a financial and growth perspective. It allows to remain a vibrant part of the search-driven Web, which has proven to be an integral reason for why we have become an industry leader in display advertising. This flexibility enables us to create a proper ratio between free and paid content and to aggressively build on our very successful digital advertising business.

He also says the Times will not join a consortium.

I’m glad they’ll keep some of their content free—I’m hoping that such features as their blogs will remain free without counting toward the article limit. The Times is a valuable, venerated resource.

But personally, I won’t be paying for a subscription, or using the site enough to incur use fees the vast majority of the time. Will you?

  • I will read the free stuff. I won’t pay for anything else. The New York Times has a long-standing reputation for making up its news anyway.

  • Jordan, if I can contribute to this discussion in a completely unproductive way, I’d like to share the (not) real reasons the NYT is putting up a paywall 🙂

  • DonAlons

    What comes to the test with this is the value of information and content. The NYT like
    many others have a bad record for their failure in the financial crisis.
    Danny Schechter summarized it some time ago nicely:
    “It is somewhat surprising,” Larry Elliott, economics editor of London’s The Guardian observed
    recently, “that there is not already rioting in the streets, given the gigantic fraud perpetrated by the financial elite at the expense of ordinary Americans.” If such a fraud was taking place, and if Wall Street’s financial crisis, according to the usually staid Economist, was on the edge of “disaster”
    with a “financial nuclear winter” waiting in the wings, why were American news consumers among
    the last to know? …..
    A New York Times columnist even admitted that experts and advocates first warned them in
    2001 that predatory lending practices were devastating poor neighborhoods but the issue
    was not covered ……
    …. the Times business section devoted a staggering 2905 words to explaining the mortgage crisis. This opus followed a similar spread in the Washington Post by two weeks. Both stories explained that the downfall was sparked by the use of overly complex securities designed not to be understood. …