The New York Times has started charging its most loyal readers for access to the website, the latest attempt by a newspaper to encourage people to pay for online content and raise money to offset circulation declines of their print editions. The paper, one of the most influential in the US, said that it would limit readers to 20 articles per month, after which they would have to pay a subscription fee of at least $15 (£9).
The model, announced by the publisher Arthur Sulzberger yesterday, stops far short of the hardline paywall adopted by Rupert Murdoch for The Times and The Sunday Times in the UK. Articles reached via links from other sites, including Facebook, Twitter or search engines such as Google, will always remain free, Mr Sulzberger said.
An estimated 85 per cent of visitors to The New York Times will not be asked to pay. "The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our website and on mobile applications," Mr Sulzberger said. "It's an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in the Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world, on any platform."
The New York Times has immediately started charging for web access in Canada, and the system – with any early glitches ironed out – will launch worldwide on 28 March. The paper has been deliberating on different payment models since announcing last year it would end unlimited free access to its site.
The new scheme is the second attempt by the Times at raising subscription revenues from online readers. In the middle of the last decade, it put its most popular columnists behind a paywall, but abandoned the experiment after only a few readers signed up.