New York Times will release paywall details in ‘near future’

Joe Pompeo

Since last summer, New York Times Co. executives have repeatedly said they would announce details about  the paper's online metered pay model "soon" or "closer to launch" of the revamped site.

The paywall was originally scheduled to debut in January, and some details of the plan have leaked to the press in recent weeks. So media watchers were hoping Times brass would say something definitive during this morning's fourth quarter earnings call with analysts.

No such luck.

"We intend to release our pay model soon and will release more details on price and gate placement in the near future," said Times CEO Janet Robinson, echoing remarks she's made on previous earnings calls.

Robinson also reiterated that "We remain confident in our new online pay strategy."

The Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 24 that the Times would charge $20 a month for full bundle access to its website and mobile applications, and "less than half that for the web only offering." The Journal also reported that the pay model, which will assess a fee on users after they have accessed a yet-to-be-specified number of free articles each month, is expected to launch sometime in February. It has reportedly been delayed due to technological glitches.

Robinson had more to offer on other digital initiatives, such as the Times' iPad app—which has racked up 1.5 million downloads and "stellar reviews," she said—and the paper's DealBook franchise, which was significantly expanded this past fall.

"Since the [DealBook] relaunch, online traffic has increased dramatically," said Robinson. "The site saw its highest traffic month ever in December, more than doubling page views from December 2009." It is still unclear whether Times execs will place the popular financial news vertical within the paywall.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, total revenues for New York Times Co. decreased 2.9 percent, with advertising and circulation revenues down 3.1 percent and 3.6 percent respectively. Print ad revenues fell 7.2 percent in the quarter, offset somewhat by an 11.1 percent gain in digital advertising.

(Frank Franklin II: AP Photo)