And there it is.
With recent reports surfacing that the New York Times would experiment with an online paywall, the Times announced today that it will start to charge readers for online content. This pretty much sums up the news:
Starting in early 2011, visitors to NYTimes.com will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the newspaper’s print edition will receive full access to the site.
Times executives said that while a pay plan will be implemented, they haven’t determined the exact cost or how many free articles will be available per month, saying that the number could change depending on reader demand and the economy. Executives also said that this decision is not to combat the current economic struggle with businesses and ads, but to develop a new long-term revenue source.
The New York Times experimented with an online paywall earlier, with TimesSelect in 2005, which gave paying subscribers access to different articles, stories and opinions online. But in September 2007, the NYT decided to end TimesSelect because those pieces began circulating on blogs and other third-party sites.
The Times will join the Wall Street Journal as two of the most powerful national magazines to implement some sort of paywall. The WSJ charges all readers for unlimited access to their site.
The news and upcoming announcements, as well as the new paywall, will undoubtedly be watched by many publishers, journalists and new media specialists. In the past year — even the past six months — newspapers and other publications have struggled with ad revenue online. I’ve said this before, but it’s going to take something drastic to happen before the problem would even get closed to being solved.
And, now, I think we’re getting there. The New York Times is again going to charge for online content. That’s something that could have a ripple effect throughout online newspapers. And the Times’ new metered paywall is just what they need to do. As the article says, “[m]ost readers who go to the Times site, as with other news sites, are incidental visitors, arriving no more than once in a while through searches and links, and many of them would be unaffected by the new system.”