INTERACTIVE MEDIA AND MARKETING;THOUGH OTHERS HAVE FAILED, PAPER PUSHES AHEAD WITH REGISTRATIONS AND SUBSCRIPTION FEES FIRST-TIME VISITOR REGISTRATION, FEES CHARGED TO NON-U.S. USERS ARE CONTROVERSIAL

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The New York Times is hitting the Web with an unusual and risky strategy for making money.

The Times will require users to register the first time they visit the site (http://www.nytimes.com), which launched last weekend. U.S. visitors will be able to access most information for free now, but foreign users pay a $35 monthly subscription fee.

The newspaper will charge additional fees for article downloads, a TV listings service and other add-ons. A broad advertising plan includes a $120,000 yearlong partnership program, banner ads and a deep classified ad database.

AGGRESSIVELY SEEKING REVENUE

It all adds up to an aggressive bid to build an online media vehicle with long-term revenue possibilities-something the newspaper industry has yet to find.

"We're not seeking to be supported solely by advertisers' dollars," said Martin Nisenholtz, president of New York Times Electronic Media Co. "We do intend to eventually charge [domestic customers].....We think this product at launch is very ambitious."

Perhaps the biggest sticking point will be mandatory registration. Other sites, such as Hot-Wired (http://www.hotwired.com), tried registration and later rescinded the policy. But the Times believes it's key to tracking the success of the site.

"It was a hard decision for us," said Daniel Donaghy, senior VP-sales and marketing with the electronic media unit. "We wanted to be able to offer all the information we could [to advertisers]....The only shot we had at doing this was at launch."

Subscriptions' place in the revenue mix has also been a subject of much debate in the newspaper industry. By charging international users a subscription fee but making the site free to U.S. users, the Times could close itself off from a sizable foreign audience.

International users will get a free 30-day trial before having to pay; charter six-month subscriptions are 50% off.

The Times eventually intends to charge U.S. users a subscription fee, but weekly subscribers of the print edition will have free access.

In setting up its subscription models, the newspaper clearly wants to avoid what happened to USA Today. The newspaper launched on the Web (http://www.usatoday.com) in April with a $14.95 monthly subscription price but dumped the fee a few months later.

PRESTIGE FACTOR

Analysts say the Times' prestige factor may encourage more people to register.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with requiring registration at the site," said John Kelsey, president of Kelsey Group, a media consultancy in Princeton, N.J. The Times, he said, "understands the tradeoff between eyeballs and getting targeted data."

For those that do register-or subscribe-the site offers a combination of Web-specific features and information culled from the daily paper.

Users can read the virtual "front page," where news is updated several times daily. Other sections cover politics, arts and travel; business and automotive areas are under discussion.

Unique to the Web is CyberTimes, which blends Times technology coverage with original reporting. Also available: New York Times Navigator, a list of news and other sites with links to popular Web search engines.

Users can search databases for real estate and help wanted ads, and the archives contain articles dating back to 1980 (downloads are $1.95 each).

A newsgathering service, dubbed New York Times Clipper, e-mails stories of interest to readers for $9.98 a month.

Discussion forums will branch off various news areas. And the entertainment section will offer a customizable TV listing service from TV Host magazine for $50 per year.

ADVERTISER PARTNERS

The Times is soliciting marketers for a one-year, $120,000 partnership program. In addition to ads, participants get access to research conducted by the Times on the Web and on its @Times site on America Online.

Chemical Bank and Toyota Motor Corp. are the first partners.

The Times buy was "our largest expenditure in interactive marketing to date for Toyota corporate," said Rand Pearsall, president of Oasis, Toyota's New York agency.

The service also will have advertising from Deutsche Telekom and New York realtor Douglas Elliman, for whom the Times developed a major real estate content area.

Advertisers can buy banners on a cost-per-impression basis starting at $30,000 for 857,000 page views (a 3.5 cents CPM) and ranging up to $120,000 for 6 million page views (a 2 cents CPM). Ad banners will rotate weekly across the site's sections and daily on its Op-Ed page.

ONE OF SEVERAL SERVICES

The Times Web site joins a plethora of New York Times Co. online ventures. Also available: @Times on AOL; TimesFax, The Boston Globe and Your Health Daily on the Web; and Careerpath, a six-newspaper consortium offering help-wanted ads on the Web.

If all goes well with the Times site, an additional site focused on regional content and listings could emerge, Mr. Nisenholtz said.

"We've been talking to a range of prospective partners," he said. "If we decide to go forward with it you can expect to see something in the next six to nine months."

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