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Report: New York Times to charge online readers

The newspaper may detail a pay-for-content model in conjunction with the expected unveiling of Apple's rumored tablet, according to a New York magazine report.

Updated at 1:10 p.m. PST with comment from The New York Times.

The New York Times is reportedly getting ready to charge readers for access to the venerable newspaper's online content.

The newspaper is expected to announce in coming weeks that it will institute a metered pay plan in which readers would have access to a limited number of free articles before being invited to subscribe, according to a report in New York magazine that cited sources close to the newsroom.

The report also suggests that a content deal could be in the works for Apple's long-rumored tablet, which many expect to be unveiled on January 27. Apple has reportedly been shopping its device to media companies in Australia to gauge interest in having their products available on the device when it's released.

A New York Times representative's comment seemed to indicate that changes were coming to the Web site.

"We'll announce a decision when we believe that we have crafted the best possible business approach," Times spokesperson Diane McNulty said. "No details till then."

As readers have increasingly gone online for their news, papers have suffered declining subscriber numbers and lower advertising revenue, resulting in a dramatic industry contraction. Newspaper publishers and the Associated Press have blamed Google and other news-aggregation sites for their woes, leading to threats that they will delist their content and begin charging online readers.

In a bold move, New York newspaper Newsday announced plans in February 2009 to begin charging online readers for access to its content. Newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle have tried to push readers back to buying the physical newspaper by promoting "print-only content" that features popular features and columnists formerly also available on the newspaper's Web site.

Among the country's largest newspapers, only The Wall Street Journal has managed to continue charging online subscription fees. The New York Times abandoned a two-year experiment with the Web-subscription model in 2007, suggesting that the company's projections for subscriber revenue were small compared with advertising sales.

However, such a plan isn't likely to garner much support from readers. A Harris poll released earlier this month found that 77 percent said they wouldn't pay anything to read a newspaper's stories on the Web. Of those who indicated they were willing to be charged for access to content, 19 percent would pay between $1 and $10 a month.