Tuesday, November 29, 2005

TimesSelect - Probably Not Going Away

Ever since the New York Times started TimesSelect, I have been waiting for the moment when they abandon the project and go back to giving us their opinion pieces and other articles for free. Although Mickey Kaus on Slate has a post about why this won’t succeed, I find his argument weak. Kaus’ argument is limited to whether TimesSelect will be profitable on its own. In reality though, TimesSelect is only a small part of the NY Times revenue sources, and the decision to keep it or dump it depends on how this project affects their overall revenue. Previously, when they were giving everything away for free on the web, there was less of an incentive to buy the print version of the paper. Granted, most of their revenue comes from advertising, but some of it comes from sales. TimesSelect will not only generate revenue from people who prefer the online version, it will likely encourage more people to get a subscription to the print version. The only potential downside to this venture will be if readership declines so much on the website, that their internet advertising revenue declines substantially. I don’t think this is going to be the case.

But while I understand their decision from a business perspective, I have a problem with the lack of access bloggers have to link to some of their columns and articles, thereby preventing serious debate about the issues. I can no longer link and write about a Thomas Friedman or Nicholas Kristof column, and I can no longer rip into Maureen Dowd’s constant anti-Bush diatribes. So while I understood their desire to encourage people to pay for their paper – especially the content stuff we can’t get anywhere else (which is why the basic news articles are still free), I had always hoped that they would leave their content free on the web to encourage debate and discussion. I thought a liberal paper like the New York Times would value that over increasing their profits. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. And despite what Mickey Kaus has to say, I don’t think this is going away anytime soon.