According to an article in the Times itself today the company will start charging visitors to access its site, after some number of free views. The system will kick in next year:
Starting in early 2011, visitors to NYTimes.com will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the newspaper’s print edition will receive full access to the site.
But executives of The New York Times Company said they could not yet answer fundamental questions about the plan, like how much it would cost or what the limit would be on free reading. They stressed that the amount of free access could change with time, in response to economic conditions and reader demand.
Simply erecting a pay wall would kill traffic and result in a loss of ad revenues on the site accordingly. This approach seeks to balance ad revenue with generating new subscription dollars as print subscriber numbers continue to fall.
Repeatedly surveys have indicated that more than three quarters of US consumers won’t pay for access to news sites. This free + fee approach also seeks to be mindful of those data, by charging the most frequent users, who presumably value the site and would pay accordingly.
Previously the company abandoned its fee-based Times Select model because it determined it could make more revenue from advertising on free page views that the program was generating.
Related: The NYT’s press release on the matter.