New York Times to Charge Online Readers

New York Times reporter Richard Perez-Pena must have drawn the short straw to get saddled with the assignment of writing today's non-story about his newspaper announcing absolutely nothing of importance relative to its plans to try once again to charge money for online content.

Here are the first three paragraphs from that story:

"The New York Times announced Wednesday that it intended to charge frequent readers for access to its Web site, a step being debated across the industry that nearly every major newspaper has so far feared to take.

"Starting in early 2011, visitors to NYTimes.com will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the newspaper's print edition will receive full access to the site.

"But executives of The New York Times Company said they could not yet answer fundamental questions about the plan, like how much it would cost or what the limit would be on free reading. They stressed that the amount of free access could change with time, in response to economic conditions and reader demand."

Under normal circumstances, reporter Perez-Pena, upon being told these things, would have folded his notebook and informed his editors that there was no story to write. Since that wasn't an option here, he prattled on for another 800 words that only served to paint a picture of Times management staring blankly into oncoming headlights.

More from the non-story:

"This announcement allows us to begin the thought process that's going to answer so many of the questions that we all care about," Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the company chairman and publisher of the newspaper, said in an interview. "We can't get this halfway right or three-quarters of the way right. We have to get this really, really right."

Begin the thought process?

Poor Perez-Pena would have to have been forgiven if he laughed when Sulzberger uttered that line … although, given that the reporter's livelihood is at stake here, it's more likely that he wept.

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