New York Times to stop charging for online content

The New York Times plans to stop charging for access to its Web site.

Two years after The New York Times Co. started charging for access to some content on its Web site, the Gray Lady is changing tack and will make the content available for free.

"The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight (12 a.m. ET) Tuesday night, reflecting a growing view in the industry that subscription fees cannot outweigh the potential ad revenue from increased traffic on a free site," the newspaper reported in a story on its Web site.

Times Select, the name of the service that charged access to opinion pieces and some news stories, was available to print subscribers for free. Times Select had 787,400 subscribers, including 471,200 print subscribers who received access to the service for free. Of the remaining subscribers, 89,200 readers received free access on college campuses and 227,000 paid either US$7.95 per month or US$49.95 for the service, depending on which subscription option they chose.

The New York Times report on the decision to end charges on the Web site, said the service generated about $10 million [M] in annual revenue.

In a statement, the paper said more users were coming to the site through search engines, instead of directly visiting NYTimes.com. Removing the subscription barrier to content available under Times Select will result in a boost in traffic, and advertising revenue from that increase will replace the money that once came from subscriptions, it said.

In addition to opening up its content to all visitors, The New York Times will also offer free access to its archives dating back to 1987, as well as access to stories published by the paper between 1851 and 1922. The site will still charge for access to stories published between 1923 and 1986.

Print subscribers will get free access to the complete archives, the paper said.

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Sumner Lemon

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