If it seems like I am critical of the NYtimes, please note that this is because I bear deep affection for that organization, and hope for the best. I know that the entire newspaper industry is in crisis, and I'd rather see venerated and important organizations like the NYTimes make the transition to the digital world (largely) intact, rather than watching them collapse and hoping someone else fills the void.
That having been said, I am very much of the opinion that a simple paywall is not going to get them the money they need to continue to operate, and I'm also of the opinion that online ad revenue will not fill this gap. So, as a result, they need to start selling services that actually represent value above and beyond the basic delivery of news. Additionally, as seen below in other posts, I think that their slow creep towards interest pieces and magazine style focus pieces is really detrimental to their mission. However, that is neither here nor there. Fundamentally, here is a list of things I'd be willing to actually pay a monthly fee for, rather than pay for simple access to news:
1. Access to the writers room. I'd be willing to pay a subscription fee if it meant I can post questions to articles that somewhat reliably get responses from the authors of the various articles. To be specific, I don't need my own questions responded to, but, using a reddit-style upvote system to bring the most common questions to the top would suffice.
2. Access to the op-ed page. The same as above. Individual editorialists vary on their responsivity to the community - both Paul Krugman and David Brooks have published and responded to letters I sent to them - but this should be formally instituted with priority access given to paying customers.
3. Story suggestions. There are a lot of stories that get covered in my sphere of business, specifically, law and technology, that simply are not touched on by the NYTimes. It would be great to have an upvote system where users could submit and vote on stories, and the top ten on any given week would be seriously considered for coverage by the news staff.
4. Sponsored forum events. Everybody loves an AMA, and I know many people would pay good money for the chance to do a livechat, once a week, with a chosen editorialist, writer, or guest.
5. Customized paper delivery. Here's what I'm not willing to pay for: the same printed newspaper received by hundreds of thousands of people that is basically the same content I can get online. What I will pay for is a twenty page, computer assembled newspaper delivered to me daily that has stories that are relevant to me. Thinking this through, many, many people would be willing to pay for this service, which, though clearly technologically tricky to execute, is not infeasible, and would become something of a status symbol very quickly.
6. Ad-free online browsing. I simply do not understand online services that charge you for access but still force ads onto your screen even behind the paywall (I'm looking at you, Hulu). If I was guaranteed ad-free newspaper browsing, not having stories chopped up onto 8 pages, and not having a two inch news column surrounded by 8 inches of ads, I would be far, far more willing to pay for online access. As it stands now, however, I have absolutely no incentive whatsoever to pay twice - once in cash, and once with my eyeballs - for a relatively fungible experience.
The theme across all these suggestions, it should be noted, is acknowledgment that I myself am a human being with my own interests and that I want to interact with the paper, not just read it. The the above features go beyond the mere delivery of news and recognize these two facts. What is certain, however, is that by simply insisting on paywalls for news delivery, the NYTimes will find that it is beating on dead horse.