In an effort to cut its reliance on ad revenue, The New York Times on Thursday finally unveiled its soon-to-launch subscription service, which will limit the amount of free content that consumers can access.
As of March 28, non-home delivery subscribers will be charged $15 a month for broad online access to NYTimes.com, while online entrée and the paper's iPad app will set consumers back $20 a month.
"As the market for and delivery of digital content evolves, we believe that supplementing advertising revenue with digital subscription revenue makes tremendous sense," Janet L. Robinson, president and CEO of The New York Times Company, said Thursday.
Once the new system is in place, non-paying NYTimes.com visitors will be limited to 20 articles per month, including slide shows, videos and other forms of content. Readers who come to New York Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media channels will be able to access individual articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit.
For some search engines, however, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles, according to the publisher. The home page at NYTimes.com and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all users at all times.
In keeping with Apple's new subscription service terms, the NYT will make 1-click purchase available in the App Store by June 30, so that readers can continue to access Times apps on Apple devices.
There is no doubt that the NYT had to address a worsening ad climate for newspaper publishers. Indeed, advertising revenue for American newspapers in 2010 -- including digital and print -- fell 6.3%, to $25.8 billion year-over-year, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
Yet, putting NYT 's subscription plans into a broader historical context, the paper's reporter Jeremy Peters wrote Thursday: "No American news organization as large as the Times has attempted to put its content behind a pay wall after allowing unrestricted access." As such, "the move is being closely watched by anxious publishers, which have warily embraced the Web and struggled with how to turn online journalism into a profitable business."
Analysts on Thursday expressed skepticism about NYT's prospects as a subscription service. "It's a high price, a gamble, and a big hedge ... against print subscribers migrating too quickly to the tablet," Ken Doctor, a media analyst at Outsell Inc., explained in the Neiman Journalism Lab.
However, added Doctor, the "timing is remarkably good -- playing to the astounding iPad 2 launch, big news around the world, and a growing sense of the Times' outsized importance as media chaos multiplies."
Subscribers to the print edition of the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times, will receive free, unlimited access to NYTimes.com.
In additional, all New York Times home delivery newspaper subscribers will continue to receive free, unlimited access to NYTimes.com and the full content on all of The Times's applications.