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So we hadn't visited our old friends at The New York Times on the Web in a while, so we thought we'd log in. We're kind fond of George Vecsey, and we find Selena Roberts quite hot.

But on our way inside, we were stopped at the door by a large, sweaty, metaphorical security guard. "May I see your invitation?" he asked politely. We tried to talk our way in, but got the bum's rush, ending up in a heap on the sidewalk. Yes, the Times now has subscription-based content. Called Times Select, they offer features and columns by Vecsey, Roberts, Harvey Araton and a few others for $49.95 per year, or $7.95 month-to-month. It's not the money — just all the typing involved.

But it's only the beginning. The online trend, say most analysts (and by "analysts" we mean "a guy we know who fixes our computer"), is going to soon lead to micropayments. So instead of paying a flat fee for Times Select, or ESPN Insider, you will pay a fee per article — say, 29 cents for William C. Rhoden's latest column. This will be done through micropayment companies such as Peppercoin or PayPal.

This of course will end the debate, once and for all, as to what writers are worth. We'd pay 99 cents for Tom Boswell, sure. Scott Ostler's column, a bargain at 49 cents. SI.com has a special today on Rick Reilly, three columns for $1. The Around the Horn guys are a steal; we've got a large backlog of Woody Paige columns and they're priced to go at 5 cents each, like those giant cardboard pallets of Arrowhead water you see at the supermarket.

The New York Times [Official Site]