The membership, which costs $5 per month or $50 per year, gives members access to easy-to-print computer guides on its site, discount prices at online store Chip Merchant, special titles when posting opinions in discussion forums, and permission to post in some restricted forums.
Jon "Hannibal" Stokes, Ars' senior CPU editor, assured readers that "all content on the Ars Technica Web site is and will always remain free." But Ars needed to do something to keep the site running without filling its pages with ads.
"Ars is not a profitable enterprise. That's OK, because we never set out to be. But it is no longer becoming feasible for us to run the site out of pocket...We're serving more pages than ever, but making less on advertising than we were in our first year of existence," stated a note posted on the site Thursday. "Now that times are rough, we're coming to you, the community, for support rather than some large corporate sponsor."
Other computing enthusiast sites, such as Tom's Hardware Guide and AnandTech, remain free. Slashdot, which was also free, was purchased by Andover.net in 1999 and later became part of VA Linux Systems.
Feedback about the change on Ars Technica's forum has been generally favorable so far. "I applaud Ars for applying a decent business model. With all of the Web sites currently finding that giving free content out in unlimited amounts was not profitable, it is good to find one group who tries a solution," one reader wrote.