New York Times puts a price tag on online content

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The New York Times is preparing to introduce multiple subscription packages for access to the paper’s website and other digital content, kicking off the biggest test to date of consumers’ willingness to pay for news they’re accustomed to getting free.

Under the new system, expected to be rolled out next month, the Times will sell an Internet-only subscription for unlimited access to the Times site, as well as a broader digital package that bundles the Times online with its application on the iPad, according to a person familiar with the matter. Subscribers to the print edition of the paper will get full online privileges at no additional cost, Times executives have said.

The person familiar with the matter said the Times has considered charging around $20 a month for the digital bundle and less than half that for the Web-only offering. To read the Times on Inc.’s Kindle e-reader device currently costs $20 per month. The Times has guarded details on pricing, which have evolved during the planning of the system and which could change even after rollout, depending on demand and other factors.

Online readers would get free access to a certain number of pages on the website each month before they are prompted to sign up for a subscription for additional material, an approach currently used by the Financial Times, which is published by Pearson PLC. Executives from New York Times Co. settled on that model over a year ago after they decided it was the best way to tackle the dilemma facing many news organizations: How to balance the need to make up for lost print readership and ad revenue with the risk of taking themselves out of an Internet ecosystem where so much similar material is free. The company declined to comment

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