Pay Wall Renaissance? Not For Alphaville; Nothing Concrete From Times

Amid all the rejuvenated interest in the online subscription model, we know two things…

Times Online currently has no plan to introduce pay walls, we understand, but is said to be evaluating the idea, both by Guardian.co.uk sources and some mischievous Telegraph.co.uk editors.

FT.com considered making Alphaville pay-for but has now decided against it, we have learned. Subscription was one option mulled for the award-winning blog and live markets discussion area – but it would likely have suffered since some parts of the section rely on reader submissions. The site FT.com already requires subscription to read more than 20 articles per month, of course, while Alphaville remains free.

Earlier in the decade, publishers toyed with charging for web content, just as they had in print, before the realisation most web users are freeloaders and the dawn of the online advertising boom. But publishers have now ridden out nearly 10 years in which web ads exploded, having barely made a penny themselves, while Google (NSDQ: GOOG) profited wildly. That Associated Newspapers posted three percent lower year-on-year online sales in Q3 is a worrisome water mark that scotches, for now, any hope web sales will make up for print’s decline, and may – at least, in theory – tip publishers back toward the pay-for model.

But while WSJ.com, FT.com and Economist.com can continue reaping subscribers for their must-read business news, it’s unlikely consumer news sites can return to the pay-for Stone Age, at least across the board. Times Online already offers crosswords, digital editions and historical archives as premium services – like Times Online, it’s likely that, faced with falling ad revenue, all publishers are at least considering whether bits of their sites might be chargeable…

If Times Online is planning any pay-for features, could they come in tandem with News Corp (NYSE: NWS) stablemate WSJ.com, which last year ruled out going free? Former Times Online editor Anne Spackman last year told us about plans for closer cooperation with the site – “partly about tools, partly about deep linking to each other

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