The New York Times has today announced that it will put its website behind a pay wall, confirming earlier reports. The plan, to launch in 2011, will allow infrequent readers to see a handful of articles for free but will put regular readers on a "metered" system that charges a "flat fee for unlimited access." Print subscribers will not have to pay for web access. Many details remain cloudy, but business and media analysts are already laying out predictions for the plan's impact on the Times and the media at large.
- Effort To Control Supply/Demand New York Times media columnist David Carr scrutinizes his own paper's plan, calling it a "hedge" that "puts maximum flexibility in the hands of the leadership of the newspaper. [...] Access can be gradually ramped up or down depending on macro trends in the market." He ultimately endorses, "People who remain reflexively bullish on free ignore that fact that the clock is ticking on many of the legacy businesses that produce that content. The new approach is an attempt to replace that ticking clock with a meter and its success is not assured, but to sit still would be dumb."
- NYT's Coming Death Reuters's Felix Salmon foretells doom. He says that blogs will stop linking to the Times because they need readers to be able to click through, which will cut off all their traffic. (Salmon assumes most web traffic comes from bloggers.) He laments, "This is, of course, exactly the approach that the NYT's management would take if it felt that it was managing a company in terminal decline, and wanted to squeeze as many dollars out of it as possible before it dies. Successful media companies go after audience first, and then watch revenues follow; failing ones alienate their audience in an attempt to maximize short-term revenues." Update: In the comments below, Salmon counters, "I would never assume that most web traffic comes from bloggers. And I certainly didn't do that in my blog entry this morning."
- Investors Clearly Hate It Wall Street Journal's Zach Seward links to the recent stock performance of the Times, concluding, "Investors as berserk and uncertain as everyone else on NYT charging for website."
- NYT Must Cater To Loyal Web Readers Poynter's Bill Mitchell warns that the Times has to prove to its loyal web-based readers that it's worth their while to start paying. "The challenge will be preserving its relationship with the huge global audience that will bear the burden of a metered pay plan," he writes. "[C]ritical will be its ability to stay connected to users around the nation and world who are either unable or unwilling to subscribe to the paper in print."
- What To Make Free Versus Protected Michael Roston lists. What to put behind the paywall: Sunday style and other "diversions." What to keep free: Breaking news, because if it's important a free paper will carry it; "public trust" investigations that serve as a public service.