'New York Times' Unveils Metered Online Pay Wall Executives believe they have found the right formula and the right moment to do the seemingly impossible: get people to pay for online news. The Times is introducing a metered system under which the paper's most loyal readers will pay for access to the website, while casual users won't pay a cent.

'New York Times' Unveils Metered Online Pay Wall

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


NPR's David Folkenflik reports.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Janet Robinson is CEO of the New York Times Company. She tells NPR these changes are a reflection of how people now consume the news.

JANET ROBINSON: We have to be agnostic in regard to how people digest the news product. We can't force them to buy a print subscription. We can't force them to buy a digital application. We have to be there for them in every venue.

FOLKENFLIK: Times' publisher and board chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

ARTHUR SULZBERGER JR: We're doing it at a time when, unlike so many other news organizations, we are expanding our journalism. We need to support this journalism, and this is how we're going to do it.

FOLKENFLIK: Sulzberger says this is the right approach for the digital age. His family has controlled the paper for more than a century.

SULZBERGER JR: This is about the app mentality. People are clearly willing to pay for content and experiences that they consider valuable and important, and we believe we're moving into that world at the right time.

FOLKENFLIK: But few mainstream news organizations have found success in creating pay walls for their websites. Jim Moroney is CEO and publisher of the Dallas Morning News. It introduced a different model this month. Some of his paper's articles are offered free online each day, but most are behind a rigid pay wall. If you don't pay, you can't read them. As Moroney acknowledges, it's a gamble.

JIM MORONEY: I don't know that I would say that we're confident. I don't think there's any certainty around what we've done. There isn't a whole lot of - in fact, I would say there is no major metropolitan newspaper that has gone at this the way that we have.

FOLKENFLIK: Times executives say their coverage is similarly indispensible. Moroney says the real gamble would be to rely on meager online advertising revenues alone. But he says it may be tough for the Times to succeed.

MORONEY: They have a little bit more difficult time because they're in a business of producing a lot of content that a lot of other media purveyors are providing, whether they're cable networks, whether they're other national printed publications.

FOLKENFLIK: The New York Times hybrid, mirrored model would ensure the paper's reports still enjoyed relatively wide online distribution. But that doesn't convince Emily Bell, the past director of digital content for the Guardian in the U.K. She's now the director for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia. Bell argues the Times squandered money and energy better spent creating other revenue streams.

EMILY BELL: And that I think is the real tragedy of it, that it's become a dominant strategy for people to examine and pursue. And it's too expensive, and it returns too little, and it actually hastens decline. It seems to hasten decline.

FOLKENFLIK: David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

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