New York Times confirms web charges

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The Independent Online

The New York Times became the latest of the world’s prominent newspapers to promise it would start charging for access to some content its website – but it put off for another year the crucial decisions on how much readers will be allowed to see for free and how much it will cost for unfettered access.

In an article revealing the decision, the paper said executives had plumped for a “metered access” system, similar to that already used by the Financial Times, which blocks non-paying readers after they reach a set number of page views in a month.

The New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr, scion of the dynasty that has controlled the paper since 1896, said executives will spend the year building computer systems to support metered access and working out what readers might be willing to pay.

“This announcement allows us to begin the thought process that’s going to answer so many of the questions that we all care about,” he said in an interview. “We can’t get this halfway right or three-quarters of the way right. We have to get this really, really right.” is the most-read newspaper site on the internet, with 17 million regular visitors, but advertising on the site is not growing fast enough to offset declines in the print edition, where circulation is falling at a 7 per cent annual rate.

The problem is mirrored across the newspaper industry in the US and beyond, and executives have become more vocal about the need to charge for journalism on the web, instead of giving it away free, but many are nervous about what will happen to their readership if they move first. Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Times and The Sun in the UK and The New York Post in the US, says all his papers will begin charging, but he has signaled the change may not come by the mid-year deadline he originally set. His financial publication, The Wall Street Journal, already charges a subscription fee.

Previous attempts to charge for access to some content, such as opinion pieces by its most famous columnists, failed to generate significant revenues and were abandoned.