Arthur Sulzberger Jr. doesn't have a crystal ball to forecast when the last print issue of the New York Times will roll off the presses. So the paper's publisher told a London audience this week that "we will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD."
But the Times isn't waiting for that to-be-determined date to look ahead to its digital future. Times executives and editors are preparing to roll out a metered pay wall in early 2011 as a means of generating revenue from online readers. The Times, like other newspapers, has witnessed drops in print advertising and circulation. So charging online is now a priority.
In January, the Times first announced the meter-pay plan, which will set a limit of articles that readers can access before they get charged. Since then, the paper has stayed mum about how exactly it plans to structure the pay scheme. It seems that's still being worked out.
"We are in the process of conducting extensive research to decide on pricing and the extent of the meter," Sulzberger said. He added that "we will be refining all these policies as we get ready to launch in the near future."
The Times is also looking forward with a new social media plan, and has teamed up with technology startup Betaworks on a personalized news service called News.me.
John Borthwick, the chief executive of Betaworks, told the Times' Jenna Wortham that the companies are "building something wonderful and amazing in the social news space."
Like Sulzberger, Borthwick hasn't offered any real specifics about the product, which is expected to launch as an iPad application later this year.
All Things Digital's Peter Kafka follows up on news of the "sort-of mysterious social news project" by reporting Friday that the Times will get something else in the partnership with Betaworks: an equity share in Bit.ly, the popular URL-shortener.
(Arthur Sulzberger Jr. speaking at the New York Forum in June 2010: AP/ Mark Lennihan)