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TIME TO PAY UP: After nearly two years of planning, The New York Times finally unveiled its pay model for its Web site and other digital editions on Thursday. The pay model goes into effect in the U.S. beginning March 28.
In the coming year, Times executives are anticipating only modest revenues.
“I don’t think they’re thinking this is a game changer in the shorter term,” said a senior newsroom source. “This is a long-term project. It’s not going to be a huge revenue source right away.”
Times executives believe if they introduce this plan now, loyal readers will get accustomed to paying and it will provide an important revenue stream down the line, as circulation and advertising revenues for the printed paper inevitably continue to drop. A senior newsroom source said that it’s likely the pricing in the digital plan will be adjusted based on reader demand.
The pay plan addresses two readerships: the drive-by readership that represents the lion’s share of the Times’ robust online traffic, and the loyal readership that clicks on Times stories several times a day, every day.
Times executives insist that most people will not bump up against the pay wall, and they do not expect a significant decline in traffic or advertising revenue as a result. All readers are allowed to click up to 20 stories a month, and all stories linked on blogs or social media sites like Facebook and Twitter will be free, even if they have hit their limit.
The Times will charge readers who aren’t print subscribers $15 a month — or $195 a year — to have full access to its Web site and mobile device. For access for a tablet device app and the Web site its $20 a month; for the tablet, smart phone and the Web site it’s $35 a month. Times readers who receive home delivery of any kind (daily, weekend, etc.) will get all digital content for free automatically.
Though Web sites like The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal already have pay walls, those are both newspapers that serve specialized audiences. The Times’ new pay wall will be the biggest experiment in American print media to find out if there is a reliable revenue stream from readers who suddenly believe they want to pay for news online.
— John Koblin