The New York Times intends to charge web users that frequently read articles on its website from the early part of next year.
Once the system is in place, visitors to NYTimes.com will be able to access a number of articles for free each month before being asked to pay a flat fee for access.
Subscribers to the newspaper’s print edition will receive full access to the site.
Speculation has been rife this week that the newspaper would annouce a shift to paid-for content. All this was confirmed when the New York Times reported this afternoon that the paywall barrier would be introduced in 2011.
However, the paper reported today that its executives could not yet answer the “fundamental questions” of “how much would it cost?” or “what will the limit be on free reading?”
The amount of free articles accessible by web users could change with time, the newspaper reported, in response to “economic conditions” and “reader demand”.
Arthur Sulzberger Jr, chairman of the New York Times Company and publisher of the newspaper, said: “This announcement allows us to begin the thought process that’s going to answer so many of the questions that we all care about.
“We can’t get this halfway right or three-quarters of the way right. We have to get this really, really right.”
The announcement by the New York Times comes more than six months after Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, outlined his intention to begin charging for access to all his newspaper websites – including The Sun and The Times in the UK.
The New York Times is the most popular newspaper website in the US with more than 17 million readers a month, according to Nielsen Online, however it is likely to bring down its paywall after other leading English language newspapers.
In November, James Harding, editor of The Times, told Press Gazette that his paper and its sister paper, The Sunday Times, were likely to be the first Murdoch-owned titles in the UK to start changing for digital content and that was likely to be in the first six months of this year.
He said a day’s access to Times Online would cost around the same as buying the print edition – currently a weekday copy of the Times costs £1.
“There’s no prize for getting it quick,” said Janet L Robinson, president and chief executive of New York Times Co told the New York Times. “There’s more of a prize for getting it right.”
This isn’t the first time The New York Times has attempted to introduce paid-for content. In the 1990s it charged overseas readers and for two years from 2005 it ran Times Select, charging for access to editorials and columns online.