That was the subscription program for columns, archival access and other special features. It’s been free to print subscribers, but everyone else has had to shell out $50 a year. After two years – and considerable in-house debate – the Times decided that subscription fees don't outweigh the potential ad revenue from increased traffic on a free site. So starting at midnight tonight, everything is free - including archives going back to 1987. From the NYT:
The newspaper said the TimesSelect project had met expectations, drawing 227,000 paying subscribers — out of 787,000 over all — and generating about $10 million a year in revenue. “But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site, NYTimes.com.
The online WSJ has nearly 1 million paying readers, but Rupert Murdoch has talked about turning the Journal into a free site once News Corp. takes over.