Home New York Times to Charge for Online Content?

New York Times to Charge for Online Content?

According to internal sources, the New York Times may soon be charging users for its online content.

In a move that would bring the publication parallel to the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, the New York Times seems to have settled on a system that would allow online readers to sample a certain amount of content before being prompted to subscribe. This decision would be a landmark in the ongoing cultural debate on whether online content should be free or not and could represent another fundamental shift in how users expect to access and consume news, depending on which news organizations follow suit.

Some media outlets’ membership systems, the WSJ’s walled-garden system – which left some parts of the site free and others available only to paying subscribers – and the Financial Times’ system of metered access, with a certain amount of free content allowed per user, were reportedly considered by the NYT, doubtless the nation’s flagship newspaper.

This news also comes in the wake of a stern statement from media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who recently took umbrage at and announced his intentions to block search engines’ indexing news media content. In November of last year, Murdoch said that News Corp sites will begin charging users for access to content around June 2010, at which time content will be de-indexed from all search engines.

According to sources at the paper, the decision to make New York Times content available on a paid basis could be made within days, announced with in weeks, and executed in a few months.

As the American economy slowly emerges from the depths of a crippling recession – and as old-school news organizations begin to cope realistically with the demands of modern media – one can’t fault the Times for taking such a step. The world-class coverage it provides and the journalists and photographers it employs certainly can’t be sustained on advertising revenues alone, especially as print circulation (with higher ad rates) decreases and more readers turn to online versions (which much lower ad rates).

What do you think – Will the Times truly begin charging online readers for access to content? And if so, will more print/online hybrid publications follow suit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

To read more ReadWriteWeb coverage of newspapers’ struggle in the 21st century, check out our Newspapers and Journalism archive.

Disclosure: ReadWriteWeb is a syndication partner of the New York Times.

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