The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) has a year to sell the public on its plans to start charging frequent NYTimes.com users for access but first execs have to sell the segment of its own staff that wanted to stay free. A year of constant carping about how awful it will be — whether anonymous or out front — will be damaging, if not lethal. It helps that Executive Editor Bill Keller is behind the idea of a metered service. Without support at the very top of the newsroom, it would be even harder. But as one newsroom insider told me the other day, during the year-long discussions about whether to charge or not, few, if any, people changed their stance. Those who favored free stuck with it; those who thought pay was the way to go may have shifted on the how. That means a lot of people who don’t like like it will have to work to make it happen. The sell job started this morning with a memo to the staff from the very top, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and Janet Robinson, posted here in full. (The added emphasis is mine.)
On the Record . . . From Arthur + Janet
Vol. 1 2010: An Important Decision about Our Future
Today we are announcing that we will be introducing a paid model for NYTimes.com at the beginning of 2011. As you will see in the press release, we have chosen a metered approach that will offer users free access to a set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number.
The metered model implementation is an integral part of our comprehensive plan for enhancing NYTimes.com. In 2010 we will continue initiatives such as Times Open, Times Topics and our work to develop more active communities and more fully integrate the real-time Web. We will continue to develop new online products and offerings as part of our effort to enhance the user experience for our readers and advertisers.
Our strategy is to build the metered model while we remain focused on making NYTimes.com more compelling, interactive and entertaining, providing many more reasons for online audiences to visit our site and stay longer. In the weeks ahead, we will be adding resources to achieve these critically important goals.
Since NYTimes.com is, by a variety of standards, one of the world