The New York Times is on the verge of charging for its online content, according to the New York Magazine. The paper "seems" to have settled on a metre system, similar to that operated by the Financial Times, and a final decision could come within days, the magazine reported. CNET quoted a Times spokesperson Diane McNulty who said, "we'll announce a decision when we believe that we have crafted the best possible business approach."
The New York Times has been contemplating paid online content for the best part of a year, with a decision originally expected far earlier. It was first suggested that the NYT was looking at a metered system for paid content back in May, along with reports that the paper was considering some kind of membership scheme. This latter idea was abandoned last autumn, sources told the New York Magazine, as it would be too expensive and cumbersome to maintain.
The Times has decided against partnering with start-up Journalism Online, the New York Magazine reported, and against working in conjunction with News Corp, after the two companies' chief digital officers met in the autumn.
The metre system - the idea being that readers can view a certain number of articles free before being asked to pay - has the advantage not leaving the paper still relatively accessible to the casual reader, and does not put specific content behind a paywall, which could anger journalists as their pieces might be less read. The NYT's previous experience with paid online content, TimesSelect, led to dissatisfaction among the paper's star columnists after their readership dramatically fell, the New York Magazine specified.
Has the New York Times finally made a decision? If America's premier general interest daily starts to charge, will that prompt others to do the same? Rupert Murdoch has promised that his News Corp properties will soon sport paywalls, with the Times of London expected to implement one this spring, and it is a crucial issue for many publishers.