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N.Y. Times to start charging for access to website, apps

Readers online can view up to 20 articles, photo galleries and videos a month for free. After that, visitors will be asked to sign up for a subscription plan that starts at $15 for four weeks of access.

March 18, 2011|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times

The New York Times, one of the nation's largest national newspapers, is erecting a pay wall for access to its website and mobile apps starting March 28.

The digital subscription plan represents a major bet by the paper, which has struggled to maintain print subscribers, that it can generate a new revenue stream by having Web readers pay for online content that has been free for years.

"This move is an investment in our future," Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the paper's publisher, said in his annual address to the company Thursday. "It will allow us to develop new sources of revenue to support the continuation of our journalistic mission and digital innovation, while maintaining our large and growing audience to support our robust advertising business."

Under the new plan, Web readers will be able to view up to 20 articles, photo galleries and videos a month for free. After they hit the limit, a prompt on will ask readers to sign up for a digital subscription plan that starts at $15 for four weeks of access. The paper did not specify how it would keep track of a user's activity on its website.

Home-delivery subscribers to the newspaper's print edition will get full access to online content as well as the company's smart phone and tablet computer applications. International Herald Tribune subscribers will get unlimited access to, but not the Times' mobile apps.

On the smart phone and iPad apps, the "top news" section will remain free of charge, but other portions of the apps will require a digital subscription, Sulzberger wrote in a blog.

None of the digital subscription plans include access to the Times' e-reader editions on Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, the Kobo Reader or the Sony Reader. The newspaper's crosswords apps aren't included either, Sulzberger wrote.

This will be the second time the newspaper has looked to online subscriptions to bring in revenue.

In 2005, it launched TimesSelect, which charged readers who didn't subscribe to the print edition for online access to its columnists' articles. TimesSelect lasted until 2007, when the paper opened up its website to all readers free of charge.

The content limits on the website will not apply to articles linked through blogs and social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, even if a reader has hit the imposed cap.

Sulzberger also noted that some search engines will have a daily limit of free links to articles at Users who access the website through Google will have a limit of five articles a day.

The website's home page and Web section fronts also will not be included in the monthly reader limits.

Shares of the parent company, New York Times Co., rose 3 cents to $8.89 in regular trading.

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