Within the last year, it has cut its expenses by $475 million dollars. It's pruned its staff by 20 percent. Those who remain have faced salary cuts and furloughs. Though the company recently projected a 10 percent increase in online ad sales for the fourth quarter of 2009, those figures can't compensate for declining print advertising. It seems only a matter of months before The New York Times starts charging for its online content. For years, readers of the WSJ.com have paid for the newspaper's biggest business scoops. Bloomberg News expanded in this dire economy, thanks to its subscription model, and even regional papers such as The Miami Herald are experimenting with new ways to make money. (Their latest innovation? Adding a tagline to Web stories to ask readers to donate.) Ugh, as if begging qualifies as innovation.
Charging for content carries risks. A pay-as-you-go or flat-fee model could alienate the Web site's growing international audience. Or, the business push could backfire--as did the paper's failed "Times Select" experiment that ended up decreasing Web traffic for the paper's brand-name columnists. If it comes down to survival or charging online, though, readers should ready their debit cards. The Times won't go down without a fight.