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Times a changin'

Money | The Gray Lady searches for a workable online model

Issue: "Clutching two, dropping four," April 23, 2011

Three-and-a-half years after ditching its first attempt to create a paid-subscription model for online content, The New York Times is trying again. The Times launched a new online model March 28 that charges readers $15-$35 per month, depending on the amount of material accessed (the first 20 articles are free) and the type of device (computer, smartphone, tablet) a reader is using to access it.

The Times reportedly spent $40 million to $50 million on the paywall project. But within hours of its launch, users were sharing tips via blogs and social media on how to cheat the system. One way around the paywall: Readers coming to the Times via links from search engines, blogs, and social media (Facebook, Twitter) will be able to access articles even if they've already reached the 20-article limit.

In 2005, the Times created a paid service called TimesSelect that allowed only paying customers to have access to Times columnists such as Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Paul Krugman. The company shut down TimesSelect in 2007.

Inflation on the way

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Pressed by higher costs for sugar, cocoa, and transportation, the Hershey Company announced an immediate 9.7 percent wholesale price increase for all its chocolates and other candies, including Hershey bars, Kisses, and Reese's Cups. Analysts suggested the move by the nation's No. 1 candy maker would likely give other companies the green light to raise their prices, too.

The Hershey announcement follows recent price increases from Kraft and Starbucks, driven in part by higher costs for coffee beans and other commodities.

In an interview with USA Today, Walmart CEO Bill Simon said his company is "seeing cost increases starting to come through at a pretty rapid rate," although he said the world's largest retailer is in a better position than most other businesses "to use scale to hold prices lower longer." Still, he warned that price inflation is "going to be serious."

Slight movement

The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 8.9 percent to 8.8 percent (the lowest in two years), but the number of people unemployed in March held roughly steady at 13.5 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The "long-term unemployed" (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) accounted for more than 45 percent of those out of work.

The economy added 216,000 non-farm jobs in March, mostly in service-providing industries such as temporary help services, hospitality, and healthcare. New jobs in mining and manufacturing rose slightly. Meanwhile, employment in local government continued its downward trend. Local governments have dropped 416,000 jobs since September 2008, mostly in education.

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