New York Times Takes a Page From Google

How do you win in a hypercompetitive business environment? You learn from others who already have. In the case of New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) , you learn from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) . You learn to fail fast.

According to reporting by Advertising Age, the paper of record plans a beta site that's sounds eerily similar to what Google does with its Labs. Called Beta620 after its Manhattan address, the site should launch this summer. Times chief technology officer Marc Frons said in a memo quoted by Ad Age, that the goal of the program is to test and launch prototypes "much faster than we could using NYTimes.com alone."

(Applause.)

That's the right move. Amid sharp and continuing declines in print newspaper circulation around the globe, the Times, McClatchy (NYSE: GCI  ) , and News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWS  ) need to learn to experiment cheaply with new Web formats that users will pay for after spending so many years riding the e-train for free.

The news also comes in the wake of ChangeWave Research findings that says owners of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) hot-selling iPad are fare more likely to use their tablets for reading newspapers than those who own Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) Kindle or Barnes & Noble's (NYSE: BKS  ) Nook. Books are apparently what users of these other devices crave.

Meanwhile, Italy's La Repubblica newspaper reports that Google will "later this year" launch an e-newspaper monetizing scheme called Newspass, for which it's seeking partners now. Users will get one-click access to paid content via most Web-connected devices, La Repubblica reports.

The Times would be an obvious Newspass partner, except that the paper of record was one of Apple's kick-off partners for the iPad, and it's likely working on iAd apps. Mix in the Mac maker's heavy-handed limiting of third-party ad networks on its devices, and the Times' digital strategy gets complicated quickly.

What's the best way to handle that? Experiment, cheaply and often. But that's also just my take. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Please tell us what you think about the Times' forthcoming beta site by voting in the poll below. You can also leave a comment to explain your thinking.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy has never, ever met a boy named Sue.


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