NYTimes.com pay as you play: what does this mean and will it work?

I just saw this from Mitch Joel re the NYTimes.com situation. The company has announced plans to turn the NYTimes.com website into a “metered” model in 2011. Yup, you may pay for news content if you really like the Times.

Said the NYT release:

The new approach, referred to as the metered model, will offer users free access to a set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number.

It represents a fairly drastic reversal of position from only a short while ago when the Sulzbergers decided to make all content free (for the second time) which meant that any Tom, Dick or Harry could read the wise musings of folks like the GREATEST COLUMNIST ALIVE TODAY.

This test run and how it fares are going to be very revealing in a number of ways.

Notably, if the Times is really one of greatest new organizations on Earth do people still care enough about quality of news to get it from the best if they have to pay? The jury is still out here but I think that overall readership will significantly decline even though the firm may survive as a result of this decision – which is nice for the Sulzbergers and the staff of the Times. The other issue is that large tracts of the population in the US despise the Times and the latte sipping morons they think it represents.

Maybe the Times can make a go of it with a portion of the US domestic market paying for content. However, the pay as you go model is sure to be less well received in poorer areas of the planet.

Other questions abound. Will the BBC site become pay as you go also? What about Al-Jazeera? If the NYT’s global competitors don’t adopt this model what does that mean for the grand dame of North American journalism?

I admire the Sulzbergers’ cojones. It seems desperate times call for revolutionary measures. Sure gonna be interesting to see how this plays. I enjoy reading the Times, especially the columnists, some of whom are among the dopest journos around. I’ll likely pay.

Will you?

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