The New York Times is starting to roll out digital subscription plans in Canada this week, with US and international subscriptions set to take effect on march 28th. Readers will be able to view the paper’s home page for free, and read up to 20 articles per month at no cost. You’ll also be able to access the “Top News” section of the company’s mobile apps for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS for free. For anything else, you’ll need to pay up.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • If you want full access to the web site and smartphone apps, you’ll need to pay $15 every four weeks.
  • For full access to the web site and the tablet app for the iPad you’ll need to find $20 in the couch cushions.
  • Full access to the tablet and smartphone apps plus the web site will run you $35 every four weeks.

Existing newspaper subscribers will be able to continue accessing all of the digital content for no additional charge. That includes customers who sign up for weekday only, or Weekender Friday-Sunday only service. Because the New York Times is currently offering a 50% discount for up to 12 weeks on some print subscriptions, I can actually sign up for the weekday print edition and digital editions for $3.70 per week, compared with $3.75 per week for the web and smartphone plan. But after a few months that price would double.

The company will offer some sort of “introductory” pricing on March 28th.

News media companies have had a difficult time charging for online content in the past, with only a few big names such as the Wall Street Journal managing to convince a large enough number of customers to subscribe to make any real money. But the New York Times might have the kind of loyal audience and name recognition in the US to pull it off — and the fact that casual, occasional readers can still view some articles for free may help. It also means that unlike the Journal, the Times isn’t completely closing its content off behind a walled garden, making it difficult for blogs and other sites to link to.

The New York Times certainly isn’t the only company looking to make money off its web site and mobile apps. In fact, several newspapers and magazines have launched recently that are exclusively available on the iPad. But even though the Times plans to charge more money than Project Magazine or The Daily, I suspect the paper has a better chance of attracting readers than either of those publications.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...

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