Last week, the NY Times announced its plans to introduce a paywall system for its NYTimes.com offerings—the first 20 articles on the Times website would be free, but then readers would be directed to a variety of options, ranging from $15/four weeks (Unlimited access to site and the smartphone app) to $35/four weeks (Unlimited access to site and the tablet and smartphone apps). Today, a feature in the paper's business section says there was "heated" internal debate between executives and seniors editors about whether to go to a pay model, "In the middle was Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of the company, who grew to embrace the idea of a pay model. But he was opposed by several senior executives, especially those who had worked to build NYTimes.com into the most visited newspaper site in the world."

The Times "studied a variety of online business models including those used by Weight Watchers, which charges $17.95 a month plus a $29.95 initiation fee for weight loss guidance, and Apple’s iTunes service, which popularized the micropayment with the 99-cent song download"—and "even looked at a donation model and at creating a digital newsstand where people could buy The Times as part of a bundle with subscriptions to local papers and national papers like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post." Intriguing! But another interesting thing is, besides the loopholes for access articles past the 20 article mark (referrals through Facebook, Twitter, Google and blogs), the paywall will come down for breaking news events.

Sulzberg told Times reporter Jeremy Peters (who does mention the Times' $250 million—and 14% interest rate— loan from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim), "Let’s imagine there’s a horrifying story like 9/11 again. We can — with one hit of a button — turn that meter to zero to allow everyone to read everything they want. We’re going to learn. We built a system that is flexible." And Martin Nisenholtz, the SVP for the Times' digital operations who wanted to keep the site free, says, "On the one hand, I think there is some anxiety around it. On the other hand, I think the model we have chosen mitigates 90 percent of it."

Well, if the Times was trying to appeal to analysts, the plan is working! A Citi analyst just upgraded them from a "Hold" to a "Buy."