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'New York Times' to Charge for Some Web Content

Columnists Go Behind Pay Barrier; News Remains Free

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The New York Times today ended months of speculation after it announced it will put portions of its flagship daily's Web content behind a "paid only" barrier.

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The daily Web content will be available through a service called TimesSelect, slated to launch on Sept. 19.

Second revenue stream
"The rationale behind the strategy is to develop a robust, scalable second revenue stream while keeping the ad revenue business growing at the rate it's been," said Martin Nisenholtz, the Times' senior vice president for digital operations.

TimesSelect is a hybridized solution to the paid-free dilemma that leaves the daily's online news content still free. The service, free to subscribers but with an annual $49.95 price tag for others, puts the Times' op-ed columnists like Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman behind the fee barrier, along with 14 other columnists from other parts of the paper and two from the Times' International Herald Tribune.

Times columnists
These other columnists include many of the Times' best-known writers, among them sports columnists Harvey Araton, George Vecsey and Selena Roberts; metro columnists Clyde Haberman, Dan Barry and Joyce Purnick; and business columnists Gretchen Morgeson, Floyd Norris and Joseph Nocera. (The media column by David Carr, which made its debut today, will remain among the free Web content.)

"We hope it doesn't do very much to traffic at all," Mr. Nisenholtz said, declining to comment on internal revenue projections for the new service.

TimesSelect subscribers will also gain access to Times' archives dating back to 1980, and they'll eventually be able to access all of the paper's archives. (The daily launched in 1851.) They'll also have what the company touts as first-looks at certain content, though Mr. Nisenholtz said all those details had yet to be worked out.

An end to the debate
Mr. Nisenholtz also said this marks the end to the Times' internal and external debates about paid Web content. "This is it," he said. "This is our announcement."

As newspapers have struggled in a difficult revenue environment, the prospect of charging for Web content is being investigated with more urgency, though, to date, virtually none of the key dailies have made any significant moves to charge for Web content since the Wall Street Journal began charging for its online product last decade. To do so requires negotiating the tricky calculus of determining whether user fees would outweigh the loss of ad dollars due to decreased traffic.

At least one key newspaper executive who oversees a daily that some suggest could make the move to paid Web content ruled that move out. Last month at the Newspaper Association of America's annual conference, Washington Post Co. Chairman-CEO Donald Graham told AdAge.com the Post would not move to a paid model on the Web.

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