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Come January, Free Is Dead, Long Live

This is it folks—the newspaper's last and best hope (so they think) for survival: paywalls. The New York Times has finally revealed the date that the wall will go up across the world's access to its news content. It's January 2011.

Bill Keller, the Times' executive editor, was speaking at a dinner event for the Foreign Press Association yesterday when he revealed the news, ending months of speculation sparked off by earlier rumors and confirmation that a plan to erect a paywall around the Times was in fact in progress.

Apple iPadYou may remember that the most vocal proponent of paywalls for news media, Rupert Murdoch, snarked at the NYT's plans as half-hearted, while defending the notion for his own online news productions. And apart from Keller's "leak" about the January date, we've learned little extra about the exact system the Times will be employing. We don't know what Keller's latest thinking on pricing is, or whether the new pay-protected Times will follow the Net edition model adopted by the original London Times, which is to make the Web version very much like the paper edition. The U.K.'s Times is also pricing its service pretty aggressively at £1 per day. We're guessing Keller will be watching how this plan, which swings into action this June, plays out before the NYT's paywall is finalized.

Given the sudden success of the iPad, newspaper paywalls have become an even more interesting notion. Other old-media publications are testing out the paid-content model on this new platform, and in some cases the prices seem extremely elevated. The Wall Street Journal's iPad effort, for example, feels expensive at $4 per week for a "living" newspaper iPad edition, and a mere seven days of archived daily editions. How well these apps work out as revenue generators will certainly impact on how the public accepts paywalls around more traditional Web-based newspaper editions.

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