If you’ve been anywhere online in the last 24 hours, you’ve probably heard that the New York Times is going to begin charging a fee as of March 28. Interesting–thought not necessarily bad–news for those of us who rely on the Paper of Record for everything from breaking news to the Crossword.

The pay structure is wildly confusing. From what we can tell, the first 20 articles are free, so if you’re clicking a link from here or another blog (say, in one of our weekly link roundups), don’t worry. No one will ask for your credit card info. But anything beyond those 20 articles you’ll be prompted to pay $15 for four week’s worth of unlimited content.

There will be three different levels offered:
-$15 every four weeks for access to the website and a mobile phone app ($195/year)
-$20 for Web access and an iPad app ($260/year)
-$35 for an all-access plan ($455/year). Plus it’s free if you’re already a print subscriber.

But wait! It’s free if you’ve hit a Times article that is accessed through Facebook or Twitter. So, until you make your decision on whether to pay, you can rely on those valued people in your social networks (hi there!) to continue giving you access to one of the best news sources around.

And it seems like it’s also free if you come across an article through Google, but then you can only click on five articles.

Phew.

Now our first instinct was to balk at the pricing, when we’re so used to getting content for free online. But the truth is, the quality of the content is unmatched for news junkies like us, and it’s actually lower than paying for the paper. The Times‘ Sunday magazine alone is worth its weight in gold as far as we’re concerned. And we sure don’t want the nation’s paper of record to go out of business.

Of course not everyone feels the same way. Wading through the 2,000+ New York Times reader comments reveals a mix of support and disdain for the move, one saying “it’s a slap in the face to have to pay for content,” while another remarking that, “it’s a fair plan.” Surely our readers are equally as divided.

There’s a certain comfort that comes with our daily ritual of reading the paper–whether you read the print version on the train to work, or relax with the New York Times’ iPad app in the evening. Even though this is a business decision and an attempt by the newspaper to set a new standard for online publishing and increase its revenue stream so they can remain in operation, to you and me, it’s personal.

What do you think about this move? Will you pay? –Jeana

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