The New York Times made news this week when it announced that beginning in 2011, it would start charging frequent visitors to its Web site. Under the plan, which is still in the works, non-subscribers would be able to view a certain number of articles online per month before being charged. (PRWeek extended its paywall last year to include a majority of its content.)
It's a move that has been a long time coming, as the newspaper industry has been struggling for years with how to monetize Web content when there is such reluctance by consumers to actually pay for it.
Of course the Times has tinkered with this strategy before with its Times Select feature, which lasted two years before being discontinued. In a media climate that is overrun with disparate news sources, the Times deserves kudos for making a bold statement on the value of its content and why it shouldn't just be given away for free any longer. This message resonates even if the announcement was made a full year ahead of the policy, a lead-time that runs counter to the attention-deficient Web ethos.
Some have questioned whether the move will alienate advertisers given that they are interested in reaching the largest audience possible. In fact, it's something that has prevented other newspapers from making similar moves. For the Times, which has struggled financially as the newspaper industry as a whole has, it makes this decision even more risky. But more importantly, it now provides the Times the chance to finally have a place in a broader conversation about the value of online content. Finally making the move to back up its words gives it leverage in this ongoing debate.