The New York Times is ending the paid-for section of its website on Wednesday – giving users free access to thousands of articles.
The move to end the Times Select service had been anticipated for weeks, after it was first reported in early August by the rival New York Post.
Times Select, which launched in 2005, gave paying subscribers access to 23 high-profile columnists, as well as the New York Times online archives, which date back to the paper’s foundation in 1851.
The columnists, along with archive stories published after 1987 and before 1923 (which are in the public domain) will be available for free from tomorrow.
The 227,000 web-only Times Select subscribers paid $7.95 (£4) per month or $49.95 (£25) per year for access to the service and will recieve a pro-rata refund. Another 471,200 people recieved free access to the site as part of their print subscription.
American Express has signed up as the first sponsor of the newly-opened areas of the site.
Nielsen/Netratings figures published yesterday showed the New York Times was the top newspaper website in America in August, with 13.01 million unique users. The company expects to see a large increase in traffic because of online users’ increasing reliance on search to navigate the web.
‘As demonstrated by the commitment of American Express, advertisers see the enormous value in making our site open and free to everyone,’said Denise Warren, the New York Times Media Group’s senior vice president and chief advertising officer.
‘With the removal of the pay wall, the audience potential at NYTimes.com, already the number one newspaper website in the United States, is vast,’she said.
Times Select was unpopular with some of the high-profile columnists whose work was behind the pay wall. Thomas Friedman said last year that he ‘hates’having his work behind the pay barrier.