Starting next year, readers who want "All the News That's Fit to Print," will have to pay.
The New York Times announced Wednesday that beginning in 2011, it will charge readers for articles on its website. Its new "metered model" will allow readers to access a certain number of articles for free each month. Once they go above that limit, unless they are print subscribers, they'll have to pay to keep reading.
"Our audiences are very loyal and we believe that our readers will pay for our award-winning digital content and services," the paper's publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. said in a release.
More details on how much the metered system would cost, and how many articles would be free before readers are charged, were not immediately available.
In recent years, newspapers have been struggling against shrinking advertising sales and a digital media landscape that is changing readers' habits - and their willingness to pay for content.
The Times won't be the first newspaper to charge for content online. The Wall Street Journal already has a pay wall, and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose company News Corp. owns the Journal, has said he'll do the same at his other papers. Mr. Murdoch made waves in November when he speculated about blocking Google's search engine access to his websites, saying news aggregators like Google News act as a "parasite" for content that other outlets produce.
The New York Times has experimented with pay models on its site in the past. In 1996 it tried to charge for content, but only about 4,000 subscribers signed up. The most recent pay wall was launched in 2005 when the Times set up its TimesSelect service, asking for $50 (U.S.) per year to read the paper's columnists on the website.
The service brought in about $10-million annually, but interfered with ad revenue on the website. Online ad sales are based on traffic; charging for content stems the flow of visitor hits to a site. Critics of the pay wall model have used this argument to explain why they believe pay walls cannot work.
When TimesSelect was scrapped in September, 2007, it was a catalyst for many newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, to open up their content for free.
The Globe and Mail charged readers to see columnists' articles online until the summer of 2008, when those articles were opened up. The website still charges for much of its archived content that is more than 30 days old.
Newspapers that followed the Times example and stopped charging for access to their websites were betting that advertising revenue would follow.
But newspapers were hit hard in the latest recession as companies cut back on advertising. Most print media depend on ads for the bulk of their revenues.
The decision to try again for a pay system at the Times was "driven by our desire to achieve additional revenue diversity that will make us less susceptible to the inevitable economic cycles," New York Times Co. chief executive officer Janet Robinson wrote in the release.
The new system will be similar to the one used by the U.K.-based Financial Times, which gives readers a taste of its articles for free before prompting for a subscription.
"Our audiences are very loyal," Mr. Sulzberger wrote, "and we believe that our readers will pay for our award-winning digital content and services."
With files from the Associated Press