2011 to spell the end of free New York Times online access

The New York Times will begin charging readers to fully access to its web site starting in 2011, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The controversial and risky move, aimed at drawing more revenue through the papers online publication without driving away advertisers, is likely to upset many Internet users who rely on the New York Times as their daily source of news.

After months of consideration, the Times said that it will be putting a metered system in place which will allow free access to a limited number of articles and then begin charging users for additional content. The Times did not disclose how many articles will be available for free, or how much it will charge in order to read more. Subscribers to the printed version of the publication will continue to have free access to the online publication.

This isn’t the first time that the Times have charged for access to its web content. Its first attempt in 1996 only attracted about 4,000 subscribers, and was quickly tossed aside. A later trial run called Times Select required a $50 annual subscription to read columnists and drew 221,000 customers, but the project ended because it impaired advertisement sales.

The idea behind the new approach is to bring in casual readers with free articles while gaining subscription revenue from those who wish to read more full-length articles; some may even look at this as being a “bait and switch” tactic.

Search engines will still be able to index the newspaper’s online articles so that they will benefit from the traffic that is generated by search results.

"[The company] is guided by the fact that our news and information are being featured in an increasingly broad range of end-user devices and services, and our pricing plans and policies must reflect this vision," said Janet Robinson, CEO of New York Times Co.

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