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Murdoch to NYTimes.com: Charge a Fee!

Media emperor Rupert Murdoch is advocating charging an online subscription fee for The New York Times, much like the model currently in use by his own paper, the Wall Street Journal.

Online, the Wall Street Journal implements a hybrid subscription/free content strategy. Subscribers pay $80 per year for access to all material. And all content, walled-back or not, is indexed by Google.

Subscribers total about one million — about half the traffic The New York Times has, observed Silicon Alley Insider, which estimated that despite its size, the latter only generated between $150 and $175 million in online ad revenue last year.

The New York Times stopped charging subscription fees for its archives and columns in 2007, leaving the Wall Street Journal the only major US newspaper remaining which charges such a fee.

Upon purchasing the Dow in 2007, Murdoch contemplated availing all Wall Street Journal content to online users with ad support. He ultimately decided against it.

In 4Q08, The New York Times reported a 48% plummet in profits versus the same period last year. Internet advertising in particular fell 3.2% for the quarter. Days prior to the earnings announcement, The New York Times announced billionaire Carlos Slim Helu would invest $250 million in the company.

And while its straits may appear less dire, the Wall Street Journal has reportedly also been seeking fresh ways to monetize its website.

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