I’m cautiously optimistic about this and am excited to see it play out. There is dire need for continued experimentation.
The strategy being discussed this go around is a Financial Times-like metered system (they call it the “frequency-model” – more at Portfolio). This would, theoretically, allow the New York Times to retain its reach and users driven to it via search, links, etc, while deriving revenue from heavy readers:
At an investor conference this fall, Nisenholtz alluded to this tension: “At the end of the day, if we don’t get this right, a lot of money falls out of the system.”
But with the painful declines in advertising brought on by last year’s financial crisis, the argument pushed by Keller and others — that online advertising might never grow big enough to sustain the paper’s high-cost, ambitious journalism — gained more weight. The view was that the Times needed to make the leap to some form of paid content and it needed to do it now. The trick would be to build a source of real revenue through online subscriptions while still being able to sell significant online advertising. The appeal of the metered model is that it charges high-volume readers while allowing casual browsers to sample articles for free, thus preserving some of the Times’ online reach.
Read all about it in New York Magazine’s “New York Times Ready to Charge Online Readers”.