New York Times to ask online readers to pay up

That The New York Times asks readers to sign in to access most of its online content has long been a point of contention in the wild open source range that is the internet. Not only should access to content be free, readers insist, but it should also be universal and require no privacy-violating account. In the advent of Twitter and Facebook, where everyone seems eager to connect one's identity with the restaurants of which we are "fans," the links we read, even the friends' status updates and links we "like," this seems to have faded.

These old privacy concerns will, I expect, resurface as news that The New York Times is considering charging a monthly access fee to its web site, nytimes.com; in a survey, the company asked print subscribers if they would pay $2.50 or $5.00 per month to read the paper's content. The consideration is not merely academic; a spokesperson confirmed the statement, "The New York Times website, nytimes.com, is considering charging a monthly fee of $5.00 to access its content, including all its articles, blogs and multimedia," was in fact a possibility. In the face of huge advertising revenue declines -- 27 percent in the first quarter 2009, and analysts expect a similar fall to be reported in the second quarter -- it's unsurprising that the newspaper might look elsewhere for revenue.