We'll soon see how much readers are willing to pay to access The New York Times online.
The country's leading general interest newspaper has finally unveiled its digital subscription plan, and the first thing that jumps out is that it's not cheap.
The Times said today that starting on March 28, U.S. readers who want access to NYT.com on every device, including smartphones and tablets, must pay $35 every four weeks, or $455 a year. The debut of the subscription offering launched in Canada today.
"Our decision to begin charging for digital access will result in another source of revenue, strengthening our ability to continue to invest in the journalism," said Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company.
For readers who just want limited access from via the Times' tablet app, the cost is $20 for every four weeks. To access the paper through a smartphone, the four-week fee is $15. Subscribers of the home-delivery print edition get full digital access for free.
The newspaper industry has been in downward spiral for more than a decade now. Every year, the sector sees more losses in readers, advertising, and overall revenue.
In October, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which tracks the numbers of readers for the newspaper sector, reported that the Times was the country's third most-read paper, behind The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, with an average weekday readership of 877,000.
In that time, readers consumed more of their news via the Web than newsprint. Internet services such as Craigslist and eBay have utterly gutted newspapers' classifieds business. Though still one of the country's largest papers, the 159-year-old Times has also seen circulation and sales dwindle.
This spurred Times' managers to go on a year-long quest to find the best way to charge Internet readers for the paper's content.
Setting up a paywall isn't easy as Web users have grown accustomed to getting news free of charge. Nonetheless, bit by bit, the larger papers have begun charging, including The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times.
According to ComScore, the free version of the Times sees more than 30 million monthly unique visitors. The Journal reported in January that the free service generates about $100 million a year.
How it will work is that NYTimes.com will allow visitors 20 stories per month but once that number is reached, the paper will require them to subscribe if they want to read more. The paper said its homepage and Top News section will remain free on the company's smartphone and tablet applications.
The Times also will allow people to read specific Times' stories should they arrive on the articles via links from search, blogs, and social media, even if they have reached their 20-story limit.
"The Times will make 1-click purchase available in the App Store by June 30," the paper said in a statement.
Correction: This story incorrectly identified the subscription terms for NYTimes.com. The company will charge on a four-week basis instead of for every month.