NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

The New York Times

(NYT) - Get Report

has yet to introduce its new online pay-wall plan but hackers already climbed over it this week.

The new subscription system for the company's namesake newspaper debuts on March 28, allowing nonsubscribers 20 article views each month before the wall kicks in. Once users access the allotted amount of free content, they can't view anymore content until a new month begins without paying for a subscription.

But as it turns out, all articles linked to the

Times

Web site from social media networks such as

Twitter

and

Facebook

, as well as five articles a day from search engine sites like

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

, can be viewed independent of the limit, leaving a huge gap in the wall that the broadsheet is now seeking to plug.

The creators of the FreeNYTimes Twitter feed quickly figured out the loophole and started tweeting links to every story on the site, digging a tunnel under the wall for newsreaders to pass through.

When the

Times

found out about the feed, it promptly requested that Twitter take it down. Twitter soon suspended the FreeNYTimes feed for exploiting the exception.

It's likely the

Times

garners hundreds of thousands of page views via social media sites every month, so why didn't it build a portion of the wall in front of a road with such heavy traffic?

By allowing users from Facebook or Twitter to read articles for free,

Times

stories will be given more of a chance to catch attention or even go "viral." But paying subscribers could very well be left feeling ripped off as they watch the non-paying readers slip through the cracks in the pay-wall without froking over a single dime.

The

Times

has started monitoring the social media sites, but there remains another way over the wall.

NYTClean popped up earlier this week to help readers without a subscription circumvent the pay-wall. The simple browser application, released by Canadian coder David Hayes, allows users get passed the wall with the aid of four lines of code.

"'Released' is probably even a little strong,"

Joshua Benton at Nieman Journalism Lab

said. "It makes it sound like there was an extended development process. All NYTClean does is call four measly lines of Javascript ... It barely even qualifies as a hack."

The

Times

spent somewhere between $40 million and $50 million to build the pay-wall.

When media reporter Jeff Bercovici of

Forbes

asked a

Times

spokeswoman about NYTClean, she said, "As we have said previously, as with any paid product, we expect that there will be some percentage of people who will find ways around our digital subscriptions. We will continue to monitor the situation but plan no changes to the programming or pay-wall structure in advance of our global launch on March 28."

News publications have been struggling to find a revenue model that works with online media.

Creating an effective pay-wall is difficult as publishers look to strike the most profitable balance between charging some Web readers and letting others in for free to generate online advertising revenue and attention.

"Can people go around the system? The answer is yes. There are going to be ways,"

Times

publisher Arthur Sulzberger said at an appearance at the Paley Center for Media. "Just as if you run down Sixth Avenue right now and you pass a newsstand and grab the paper and keep running you can actually get the

Times

free."

According to Sulzberger, only thieving kids and the unemployed would dare steal the superior and exclusive news content that the

Times

offers.

"Is it going to be done by the kind of people who value the quality of

The New York Times

reporting and opinion and analysis? No," he continued. "I don't think so. It'll be mostly high-school kids and people who are out of work."

His comments validate the newspaper's supposed elitist mindset and suggest that Sulzberger doesn't realize most people, even the wealthy and working, believe that the Web is a free and open content sharing forum.

"The issue comes back to the fact that media is changing," said Toby Bloomberg of the

Diva Marketing blog

. "The other problem is that we assume everything online should be free."

Shortly after uttering his slightly offensive comments, Sulzberger admitted, "I can't believe I just said that."

If the paper boy is standing on the sidewalk handing out the

Times

for free, why would anyone feel it necessary to steal it from the unsuspecting sidewalk news vendor?

Only time will tell if the

Times'

honest, wealthy and employed readers will be enough to keep the pay-wall from crumbling.

--Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

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Theresa McCabe

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@TheresaMcCabe

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