NEW YORK – The New York Times said Monday it is scrapping a two-year-old program to charge fees for access to parts of its Web site, including op-ed columnists and archives dating back to 1987.
As of midnight tonight, the Times will discontinue its TimesSelect feature, which cost $49.95 per year or $7.95 by the month. Home delivery subscribers were able to sign up for free.
The move reflects a growing shift in thinking in the media industry, where it had once been thought that charging for Web access was the best strategy for making money.
But in recent years, the amount of money being spent on online advertising has been surging, offering other alternatives for making profits online.
Two years after its September 2005 launch, TimesSelect had 227,000 online-only paying customers, while another 471,200 received it for free as a benefit of their home delivery subscriptions. Another 89,200 received it for free on college campuses, for a total base of 787,400.
“A lot has changed since the time we launched TimesSelect,” Vivian Schiller, the manager of NYTimes.com, said in an interview Monday.
Among other things, the Times found ways to fine-tune the way search engines combed articles at the site, offering new opportunities to build online traffic, Schiller said.
Among other newspapers, Pearson PLC’s Financial Times charges for access to some of its Web site. The Wall Street Journal has the largest paid online base with about 1 million users, but that strategy is also being reconsidered and could be one of several changes under the Journal’s new owner, Rupert Murdoch, whose media conglomerate News Corp. has agreed to buy Dow Jones & Co. for $5 billion.