A tipster was selected for a survey on nytimes.com and graciously copy/pasted from it for our benefit. The Times was gauging interest in two premium packages that it calls NYT Gold and NYT Silver. Market research is apparently ongoing and it's entirely possible, even likely, that the pricing and features outlined below aren't a final plan. But they are the most detail we've seen of just what the Times is hoping people will pay for on their web site as print revenue vanishes.
The packages carry an annual cost of $150 and $50, respectively, and emphasize behind-the-scenes benefits like newsroom tours, exclusive videos of reporters telling "the story behind the story" and ancient back issues. In this, the new packages repeat the core mistake of the Times' last, abortive effort at premium online content, the TimesSelect opinion section: Assuming people are fascinated with the Times as a brand, and with the deep thinking of its insiders. Really, most Web readers just like the news. But the NYT's most valuable, expensive to produce product would seem to remain free under the new plan.
Aside from the tote bag, which could have a certain retro chic if the paper doesn't soon conquer its deep financial problems, the most compelling benefit is called FirstLook and gives paying customers an early peek at the news: "You'll... get access to some stories before they appear in print or online." However, whether this is an early look at a political scoop or the Dining section isn't clear.
UPDATE: Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty writes, "It's very early in the process. We are still in the data collection phase."
The Times' plans, as outlined in an nytimes.com user survey:
(Top pic: Times chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr, by JD Lasica)