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Is the Times's play for digital dollars a new beginning or the beginning of the end?

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

There are a few things you can count on: the sun will rise in the east, winter will turn to spring, and the New York Times will come out every day. Of the three, the disappearance of the Times might be the most shocking to a reader's sense of a rational universe.

But that's exactly the scenario that was implied — and, Times bosses hope, staved off — by the recent announcement that next year the paper will begin charging for online access. The Times is possibly the most authoritative paper in the world and the most influential online, with 17...

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