One of the most famous web pages cellphone users access is that of the New York Times. In fact, the Times web site is often considered as part of a "Gold Standard" test for handset browsers. The browsers that do the best job rendering sites to look like they do on a PC, like WebKit based browsers (Safari, Android etc.) will render the full PC site of the newspaper, while other browsers show the mobile version. Regardless of the version that comes up on your phone, if NY Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. gets his way, free access to the Times online will be a thing of the past. The Times has been looking at the Wall Street Journal's subscription system where some parts of the paper are free and others require payment. Another choice is the metered system used by the Financial Times where some articles are sampled up to a point where payment is required to continue. This method might be favored by the Times because it allows some articles to be read for free while still bringing in money from those who can afford a subscription for more in-depth news. A third option-membership- patterned after NPR, was eliminated last fall. The argument to end free access has been a contentious one as the paper-with 20 million unique readers-has become the English language global newspaper of record. Despite this, growth in web ad rates have matured and the Times is looking to bring in more money despite having sold out its home page on occasion. The question is, will charging for the paper bring in enough revenue to more than make up for the loss in eyeballs which would result in lower ad rates?
A personal friend of Sulzberger says that a decision will be made within weeks, most likely at the same time that the Apple tablet is expected to be introduced which is expected to be January 27th. The talk is that Apple and the Times will strike a content partnership in conjunction with the tablet's introduction, although it could actually be next spring before paid content begins. Diane McNulty, a spokeswoman for the paper says, "We'll announce a decision when we believe we have crafted the best possible business approach. No details till then."