NYT launching digital pay plan

he New York Times is ready to launch its long-anticipated plan to get online readers to start paying for the news organization’s digital content.

Beginning later this month The Times will start charging nonsubscribers if they want to view more than 20 articles a month.

The Times pay-to-click plan will be closely watched by newspaper executives across the country. The industry has been seeking ways to increase online revenue. Newspapers have seen eroding print circulation audiences and have invested heavily in presenting content online.

The Pew Center recently reported that for the first time more people now get news online than from print newspapers.

But so far, online revenue at most newspapers only makes up a small fraction of overall revenue, although it is becoming a bigger piece of the revenue pie as subscription and print revenues continue to decline.

One thing that is telling in The Times announcement is that the vast majority of NYTimes.com readers are casual visitors, meaning by charging for online content The Times runs the risk of driving away a big chunk of its more loyal readers.

Here is how the pay plan will work, according to NYTimes.com:

Beginning March 28, visitors to NYTimes.com will be able to read 20 articles a month without paying, a limit that company executives said was intended to draw in subscription revenue from the most loyal readers while not driving away the casual visitors who make up a vast majority of the site’s traffic.
Once readers click on their 21st article, they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages — $15 every four weeks for access to the Web site and a mobile phone app, $20 for Web access and an iPad app or $35 for an all-access plan.

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