New York Times Adopting Paid Web Model -- But Not Just Yet

The New York Times is plunging ahead into the future of paid content with a new business model for its website. Well, "plunging" is probably too strong a word; maybe "tiptoeing" is more like it.After months of deliberations, the paper has finally decided on both a structure for charging readers to access nytimes.com and a date when the pay demands will take effect. The model is a so-called metered regime, meaning users will be able to view a certain, pre-set number of pages each month, then asked to supply a credit card in order to continue beyond that level. The date is January 2011 -- meaning the Times has given itself a full year in which to monitor competitors' efforts, the health of the advertising economy, the popularity and capability of the new "tablet" computers hitting the market, and other variables that might affect the ultimate implementation of its plans.

The Times selected the metered model over other alternatives, including a simple pay wall and a premium membership club that would serve up extra goodies to subscribers. (New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman first reported the Times's decision over the weekend, although it was not yet official.)

There's some evidence that a metered system may be the best option. The Financial Times, which has been metering for several years, has ridden out the recession far more comfortably than most papers its size; parent Pearson announced Wednesday that the Financial Times Group exceeded its targets for 2010, and that subscription revenues already outweigh print advertising revenues. Journalism Online, a start-up that's working with newspapers and other publishers to help them adopt pay models, has also increasingly seemed to favor the metered approach over other methods.

Here's the full announcement from the Times:
THE NEW YORK TIMES ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR A METERED MODEL FOR NYTIMES.COM IN 2011

NEW YORK, January 20, 2010 - The New York Times announced today that it will be introducing a paid model for NYTimes.com at the beginning of 2011.

The new approach, referred to as the metered model, will offer users free access to a set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number. This will enable NYTimes.com 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.

Through 2010, NYTimes.com will be building a new online infrastructure designed to provide consumers with a frictionless experience across multiple platforms. Once the metered model is implemented, New York Times home delivery print subscribers will continue to have free access to NYTimes.com.

"Our new business model is designed to provide additional support for The New York Times's extraordinary, professional journalism," said Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company and publisher of The New York Times. "Our audiences are very loyal and we believe that our readers will pay for our award-winning digital content and services."

"This process of rethinking our business model has also been driven by our desire to achieve additional revenue diversity that will make us less susceptible to the inevitable economic cycles," said Janet L. Robinson, president and CEO, The New York Times Company. "We were also guided by the fact that our news and information are being featured in an increasingly broad range of end-user devices and services, and our pricing plans and policies must reflect this vision."

More details regarding the metered model will be available in the coming months.

NYTimes.com is the No. 1 newspaper-owned Web site and a top five current events and global news site according to Nielsen Online.

The New York Times Company, a leading media company with 2008 revenues of $2.9 billion, includes The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, 15 other daily newspapers and more than 50 Web sites, including NYTimes.com, Boston.com and About.com. The Company's core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.

Except for the historical information contained herein, the matters discussed in this press release are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those predicted by such forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include national and local conditions, as well as competition and the development of our digital businesses. They also include other risks detailed from time to time in the Company's publicly filed documents, including the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 28, 2008. The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

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