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New York Times to Start Charging Online ‘Shortly’

The New York Times will start charging readers for online access “very shortly,” Chairman and Publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. said in London today.

The daily will introduce a “metered” model based on one used by the Financial Times newspaper that allows readers to view some articles for free each month, he said at the FT Digital Media & Broadcasting conference. He declined to elaborate on when the model would be introduced.

“We can no longer afford to have iPad and iPhone apps for free,” Sulzberger said. “The metered model will still allow people to engage with your journalism when they are not deep loyalists, and still make ad dollars from that.”

The New York Times Co. (NYT), which publishes the namesake newspaper and owns magazines, reported a 26 percent decline in fourth-quarter profit and lower revenue as print advertising and circulation revenue continued to shrink. The newspaper is following peers like the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal into charging for online content as print advertising drops and readers increasingly move online.

Still, the paid model may not work for every newspaper, cautioned Claire Enders of London-based researcher Enders Analysis Ltd. While business-to-business newspapers like the FT and Wall Street Journal have had some success targeting online readers, general newspaper may have a harder time.

“We haven’t seen any success yet,” Enders said at the conference, citing Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London and Sunday Times, which erected “hard” paywalls in July and has since lost readers.

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James Murdoch, the head of News Corp. (NWSA)’s European and Asian operation, said in November those newspapers had more than 105,000 paying online customers, and characterized paying readers as “more engaged.”

At the Financial Times’ online paid version, readership and revenue is growing by more than 50 percent a year, Chief Executive Officer John Ridding said at the conference.

“It is possible across all kinds of media,” he said. “It’s not just charging that matters; what’s really important is you can create a kind of machine” to target readers’ reading habits and behaviors with various offers and advertising.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristen Schweizer in London at kschweizer1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root in Pairs at vroot@bloomberg.net

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