NEW YORK – The New York Times says it will charge readers for full access to its Web site starting in 2011, a risky move aimed at increasing online revenue without driving away advertisers that want the biggest possible audience.
The potential pitfalls have made most other major newspapers hesitant to take a similar step. But after months of deliberation, the Times said Wednesday that it will use a metered system, allowing free access to a certain number of articles each month and then charging users for additional content.
The Times did not disclose how many articles would be available for free each month or what it would charge to read more. Subscribers to the printed version of the Times would still have free access to the Web site.
It would not be the first time the newspaper has asked readers to pay for its online articles.
It charged for its Web site in 1996 but attracted only about 4,000 subscribers. Another experiment called Times Select, which required a $50 annual subscription to read Times columnists, drew 221,000 customers but was scrapped in 2007 because it dented ad sales. Advertisers generally pay more for higher Web traffic.
The goal of a metered system is to draw casual readers with free articles while getting fees from people who want to go deeper on the site.
The plan would not stop search engines from cataloging the newspaper’s Web site, so its articles could still benefit from the traffic generated by search results.
The push for subscription revenue is happening because online advertising hasn’t grown enough to offset declines in print ads. Publishers not only face a slump in ad spending caused by the recession but also competition from a growing number of news sites on the Web.