New York Times takes giant step in industry standard

January 20, 2010

The New York Times  isn’t the first major newspaper to charge for its online edition. Both the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have pay schemes in place. But as a standard bearer for the general global news media — rather than niche financial content — its plans to put a value on its digital content bring a certain, and welcome, gravitas.

The approach is a better alternative to its aborted attempt five years ago to generate online subscription revenue by charging for access to its most popular columnists. As with, casual readers will continue to have access to an as yet to be determined number of big stories, generating the kind of traffic and search engine optimization that advertisers desire. Habitual readers, who value the Times as their go-to news source, will no longer eat as much as they like for free.

The Times is under no illusion that such a pay model will resolve the financial upheaval wrought by the Internet on the newspaper publisher’s finances. But anything that closes once and for all the notion that online news content should, and always will be, free is a step forward for the industry.

Putting a price on its product will also help the Times as new gadgets, like Apple’s  tablet, catch on and offer new ways to access the Times.

Of course, the key for the company’s shareholders will be in its implementation. The Times promises readers a “frictionless experience” under the new pay model, which is essential if it is to avoid alienating its readership. And it needs to price the service at a point that doesn’t excessively cannibalize its print business while still attracting sufficient digital subscription volume.

Luckily for the Times, and in no small part thanks to telegraphing its own intentions, the paper will be in good company a year from now when it finally puts up the pay walls.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Like many other “news-papers” the NY Times has problems surviving in the new web world.
Charging for their online content may be a giant or a small step for the NY Times, but in any case this step would surely get them closer to the exit…

Posted by yr2009 | Report as abusive

I used to read the NYT frequently until they started airing that snarky new TV commercial in which actors brag about how many sections of the Times they are “fluent” in.

One actor even goes out on a limb to proclaim that “the best journalists in the world work for the Times and there’s no debating that.”

Posted by Oskarwild | Report as abusive

People aren’t going to pay the NYT for their online ‘NEWS’ when they can get it for free and they sure as hell aren’t going to pay them for their ‘OPINIONS’ (which aren’t worth two cents).

Posted by shawnshine | Report as abusive

[…] in place. But as a standard bearer for the general global news media — rather than niche … Read Full Article (No Ratings Yet)  Loading … SEO […]

Posted by New York Times takes giant step in industry standard – Reuters Blogs | ByteBooth | Report as abusive

Sorry but as long as news papers are selling ads online and distribution costs are much less then actual news papers I am not paying for news that I can get for free.
Their will always be a free news site. News papers do not corner the market on news. The Wall Street Journal is of course a bit different in that it offers specific news and views about business and investments. I am especially appalled at any news organization who thinks they can sell news when anyone is still offering it for free. If all news organizations do decide to charge for their publication. I would expect at the very least not to see any ads appearing anywhere! I imagine they cannot promise this.

Posted by jscott418 | Report as abusive

The NYT does not have any real form of moat that will allow them premium pricing for a commodity product.

Part of Information Theory teaches us that “Information Breaks Down Hierarchies”. The newspaper empires are dying for very good economic reasons. They were premised on local or regional monopolies that no longer exist.

I now get my international news from the BBC. Financial, from Reuters (sometimes good, sometimes not), WSJ, Morningstar, etc. Political comes best from a local source. WashPost usually trumps NYT for national. Sampling eclectically is all the rage.

Posted by ARJTurgot | Report as abusive

A giant step into total oblivion, more like. Website subscriptions only work when potential subscribers feel they’re getting value, something important in return besides monthly invoices. To merit a subscription fee, the NYT really doesn’t have enough mojo to offer. The very suggestion that they might have when they evidently don’t smacks of elitist entitlement. This late in the game, that just isn’t gonna fly.

Without online advertising revenue, which is going up in smoke with this announcement, the whole thing is destined to collapse.

They should never have listened to bloody Rupert Murdoch. Nobody should.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

the New York Times “is not really a Newspaper”

Posted by magboy | Report as abusive

We will have to wait and see who blinks first. The NYTimes, or the public that can always get the same facts with less spin else where.

Posted by Sternberg | Report as abusive

The newspaper industry does not get it, and will soon go the way of the dinosaur. First, the ones I hae seen who charge for online content charge almost as much as their print editions. Every article you read about newspaper costs is that the news print is what costs so much, so how do you justify the high online costs when there is no news print involved. Second, not only do they charge you for their content, but they also bombard you with advertising. In essence they are recreating their print editions electronically with multiple revenue streams. The problem here is, we can go to another URL, and get the same stories free. So the business model must change, but they have not quite figured that out yet, nor have they figured out how to do it…

Posted by Toolman59 | Report as abusive

“But as a standard bearer for the general global news media” Is this a joke..? I mean really. The NY Times, which I habitually used to read on-line from Paris and Mumbai for years has become an increasingly bias source of news, which looks at the world through the prism of American superiority. I mean come on now let’s be serious, stuck in their offices in Times Square it would seem rather tough to see the rest of world… Oh yeah they have that one writer running around Africa being a little do-gooder… I think you can even win a trip to go do “good” with him… What a joke!

A perfect example of how out of touch with the “globe” the NY Times is and a story that always gets a laugh from people is when I tell them about the time in May 2007 that the central photo on the NY Times website for the French elections was an elderly man walking with a baguette, under a silly headline. If the NY Times chooses to think that they can just perpetuate clichés than I hope that readers get wise.

Please don’t get me started on their articles about India, which portray the country as a backwards poor nation of beggars…

Seriously though does anyone at the Times or in America recall this bastion of global news’s reporting on the build-up to the invasion of Iraq? They were so embedded that the forgot to be critical of war that has cost thousands if not millions of Iraqi lives… Way to go NY Times.

Finally recall the paper’s on-line experiment with paid articles a few years ago and found it a major turn-off, especially when which is owned by the NY Times and has the same stories remains free.

I say good riddance to the NY Times and their capitalist ways. Information should be free… Thank goodness for the level headed people at the BBC.

Posted by gberg1312 | Report as abusive

I think Agnes is a bit naïve if she really believes significant numbers of people will pay for Internet news. They will pay for their Internet service and that’s it. The main thing that attracts people to the Internet is the fact online access is FREE. That won’t change.

Posted by mctimm | Report as abusive

If there were only one newspaper in the world, I would like to see the Times to be the one. Apart from news I value a number of columns such as arts, science and travel. They have certainly made my life richer. How much am I willing to pay for the privilege to access the Times? I am not sure, but $3-4 per month would be a good starter. It would be a bad idea to charge by each piece of article.

Posted by jlpeng | Report as abusive

Charging for content is not a way out of the crisis, though I agree it is a first step. First, the NYT, like other news orgs, should let bloggers blog and start working on developing exclusive content again. The way to do that is (for example), relying on freelancers abroad and cultivating them, being bold in their reporting and diverse. The NYT, like so much of the MSM, is timorous at best, they have their editors and usual staff writers, who are all too frightened to do anything out of the run-of-the-mill. Secondly, they’ll have to invest downwards, not upwards. I write occasionally for one of the biggies, and I cannot survive on what they pay, no way. But their editors are surely not being paid LESS than they were being paid 15 years ago… So in the end, writing fo them has become a form of high-class blogging. Another suggestion is: They should campaign to remind younger readers of the benefits of reading physical paper. The laptop at a certain coffee shop might seem really sexy, but it is very limiting. Anyway…. gotta run.

Posted by Talleyrand | Report as abusive

Get over yourself, NYT.
I don’t even read it online when it’s free, why would I want to pay for that vacuous verbosity and NYC pretension?

It’s a whole new game when you can’t sell news by the pound.

Posted by DavidJ | Report as abusive

Dear Writer,
The above related stories had already appeared on many news websites.
Here,Reuters is not an exceptional one.
I have already written comments pros and cons payable online news from these great,world famous medias.
Due to financial crunch, less in real sales,establishment costs and all added to come to conclusion on charging their news at nominal rates to its members and users.
i am a regular reader and a writer by comments on all vital articles,editors blogs, film review,sports and entertainments pages to New York Times.
I have my own blog and regularly contributing,sharing my views on many subjects and gladly,New York Times are publishing it.
There so many other avenues for more revenue generation and to get more leverage and more profits by this great,well known news medias.
Let us wait and see of their results.
Still,one year to go.,

Posted by mdspatsy | Report as abusive

The fact that most Times newspapers are losing money each year is more due to its editorial “bent” and leftist views than to a decline in print media.Watch what happens when people like me have to pay for this,bye-bye!!!!!

Posted by johnnyangel | Report as abusive