According to a weekend report in New York magazine, New York Times (NYSE: NYT ) is no more than weeks away from announcing a plan to charge for content delivered online and through Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) rumored iSlate tablet.
"Apple's tablet computer is rumored to launch on January 27, and sources speculate that [New York Times Co. publisher Arthur] Sulzberger will strike a content partnership for the new device, which could dovetail with the paid strategy," New York contributing editor Gabriel Sherman writes.
No one's going to be surprised if Sherman and his sources prove correct. I'm among many observers who've argued The New York Times would do better by monetizing some of its unique content, something akin to what News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWS ) has with The Wall Street Journal.
The difference here, Sherman writes, is that the parent company of the Paper of Record plans a metering system that allows readers to sample a few articles for free before being asked to subscribe. Pearson's (NYSE: PSO ) Financial Times newspaper takes a similar approach.
Forgoing a hard paywall has at least one big benefit. There's less chance of a fight with Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) news operation over aggregation rights and revenue sharing -- a fight that Rupert Murdoch appears to take personally, and which Times Executive Editor Bill Keller appears eager to avoid.
Still, Sherman writes, there's been a debate inside the Times over what monetization model makes the most sense for nytimes.com. Culture editor Jonathan Landman disputed the claim, but the point remains: The Times needs to get more from what it does online.
Yet not all digital content is fit to print, or fit for sale. Apple can't solve this problem for the Times' business gurus -- no matter how good the Gray Lady looks on a full-color iSlate.
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