They did make a point of reserving the right to change over to a "pay" format at some point, but so far, they never have done so. I presume they continue to support the cost of the webpage via advertising and other sources.
One nice benefit of their webpage was the ability to email articles to friends. Frequently, when reading the newspaper, I would find articles I wanted to share with someone, generally gnomi. In the old, pre-Internet days, I would have to save the article until she had a chance to read it. Now, I could send a copy of the article to her, or to any friend, with just a few clicks of the mouse. I could also send myself a copy of the article as well. They also had the option of just sending the link, but the link was always included with the emailed full article, so I rarely used that option.
Last week, however, they changed their system. Apparently, from now on, when you click on the link to email an article to a friend, you can no longer email the full text of the article. All you can do now is send an email which contains a link to the article. I presume that if you do this and your friend is not a registered user, they will still be allowed to access the full article, but I'm not sure about that at the moment. What I do know is that I am annoyed by this change. Yes, I know that a lot of other news sites never had the option to send the full article, just the link, but I never liked that system. Sometimes I wanted a copy of the article for my own reference because I thought I saw the seeds of a good story in it. I presume that the NY Times has switched over either to protect their copyrights or get a better idea of how many people are actually reading the emailed articles. Maybe both, but the first seems more likely, as they make a point of charging for content over a week old. And I know that they have the right to decide precisely how they want to offer their content.
But when you've gotten used to a system that works well, and when they change it by fiat without any warning to their registered users...that's annoying.