New York Times looks to WeightWatchers for Internet tips

NEW YORK Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:31pm EST

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, listens at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York, November 30, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, listens at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York, November 30, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Times Co is completing plans to charge readers for online news after spending a year studying websites such as Consumer Reports and WeightWatchers.

The New York Times, which in 2007 abandoned its first big effort to charge consumers to read its columnists online, is betting it can overcome readers' objections to paying for news they have grown accustomed to reading free of charge.

"This year has been a year of preparation," New York Times Chief Executive Janet Robinson told the Reuters Global Media Summit. "We have done very in-depth planning in regard to the technology."

The company has been working with consumer electronics and technology companies, including Microsoft Corp, Sony Corp, Samsung Electronics, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc, for its digital editions, she said.

Robinson and Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr said they would announce as early as January prices for its 'metered' Internet model, apps for smartphones and tablets and newspapers delivered to people's doors and other details.

In its metered model, the company plans to charge readers next year after they access a limited number of articles for free on NYTimes.com.

The company largely avoided other media websites for inspiration, choosing instead of focus on an Internet model created by The Financial Times, owned by Pearson Plc.

"There's lots to be learned in regard to pricing across a myriad of industries, and I think we've really done a lot of homework," Robinson said, citing "everything from Consumer Reports to WeightWatchers."

The websites, for instance, charge readers to get in-depth information about products and dieting. Robinson said these companies offered lessons in converting free users to paying customers. Inspiration also came from electronic commerce websites and telecommunications and cable service operators.

The New York Times also intends to launch recurring subscriptions for its news application on a variety of mobile devices including Apple's iPad tablet.

"We are agnostic with regard to company," said Robinson. "We're dealing with everyone -- Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, Apple and Amazon."

The New York Times is not alone in soliciting fees for reading its online content.

News Corp's The Times of London has introduced a paywall that has led to the loss of almost 90 percent of its online readership.

"Please don't compare us to the Times of London. They have a gate, a real wall. We aren't doing that," said Sulzberger. "To compare us to them is just a false comparison ... we want to be part of the digital ecosystem."

Asked whether the New York Times would consider launching a newspaper specifically designed for tablets, as News Corp is planning to do with The Daily next year, Robinson said: "We have a superior daily. We call it the New York Times."

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