While still rumor level, NY Mag reports that the decision is prompted by tanking online ad revenue. It's also likely that search is providing diminishing traffic as well. This is a hunch, but whatever model they are using would account for a 30% immediate drop in overall traffic if the firewall goes up.
That's why a hybrid model that gives users and spiders a couple of free views per week or month before shutting them down is the likely model. That's pretty obvious.
What's trickier is the price. TimesSelect was $50 a year for just the opinion pages. Now, much more would be protected. Are we looking at subscription fees on par with print?
Probably not. The subscription model isn't open enough and upfront all-you-can eat models are not too popular right now. NY Mag says that price is the killer:
What makes the decision so agonizing for Sulzberger is that itSo, where do they go? Microtransactions? Charge by platform? Packages of multiple channels? New ad formats?
involves not just business considerations, but ultimately a self-
assessment of just what Times journalism is worth to the world. This
fall, Keller told the Observer that at some point, the decision is a
"gut call about what we think the audience will accept." Hanging
over the deliberations is the fact that the Times' last experience
with pay walls, TimesSelect, was deeply unsatisfying and exposed a
rift between Sulzberger and his roster of A-list columnists,
particularly Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd, who grew frustrated at
their dramatic fall-off in online readership. Not long before the
Times ultimately pulled the plug on TimesSelect, Friedman wrote
Sulzberger a long memo explaining that, while he was initially
supportive of TimesSelect, he'd been alarmed that he had lost most of
his readers in India and China and the Middle East.
They've got to do something. Now the home page shows signals of desperation: Prada is taking over the home page, just when one of the biggest stories of the century is unfolding amidst the poverty in Haiti.