New York Times’s Online Pay Model Was Years in the Making

At issue was the biggest strategic leap in a generation for the 159-year-old New York Times: would readers be willing to pay to read its journalism online?The Times announced its new subscription plan last week to widespread debate. Many readers and bloggers said they were happy to be able to finally pay for their frequent use of the Web sites, while many others — joined by some industry analysts and pundits — said that The Times was dangerously out of step with the digital age and that the approach was doomed to fail.The same debate raged inside The Times, with executives and senior editors sometimes heatedly taking sides. In the middle was Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of the company, who grew to embrace the idea of a pay model. But he was opposed by several senior executives, especially those who had worked to build into the most visited newspaper site in the world.The risks were manifold. The company might jeopardize its huge online reach, and no one could predict what would happen to digital advertising, which had gone from being a drop in the bucket to more than a quarter of The New York Times Company’s overall advertising revenue.

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