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NYT Goes Sub For Portions of Site

By - May 17, 2005

Nyt-1By now most of you have read that the Times is putting its Op Ed contributors behind a paid sub wall. (Caveat: I did a very brief consulting gig for the Times back in the Fall on these issues writ large).

Fifty bucks will get you “TimesSelect” – all the Op Ed columnists, plus the entire Times archive, plus some other bells and whistles like the Times email news alerts, some organizational tools, and some special editorial features. Times coverage is here. The release is here.

It’s tough to make what was once free into a paid business, and the Times is getting some to-be-expected shit for this. But I think I understand where they are coming from on this one. They are keeping most of the site free, after all, and asking that people pay for the stuff that has proven to be the most valuable – folks’ opinions.

They are also bundling a some stuff that was already paid into the price – the archives, the news alerts – and I can only imagine more will come soon. I have my own short list. To wit:

- I’d like to be part of a community. If I pay the fifty bucks, how about I get the chance to blog for the Times?At the very least, invite me to some cool Times events and parties.

-If I’m a subscriber and I have a blog, I’d like to be able to link to the stuff behind the wall. That would get serious bloggers to sign up, I’d warrant, and ensure the Times does not suffer from the same fate as the Journal.

- TimesSelect includes something called TimesFile, a sort of Furl for the NYT.com. I’d like it to be for the entire web, with a NYT filter of sorts.

The Times stated reason for doing this is to diversify its revenue mix, and I buy that logic. It’s scary to be totally leveraged over advertising. However, I think it’s justified in a web world, because margins are so much higher – subscription prices are justified by the costs of printing, marketing, distribution – in the print world, subscription revenue often simply covers a portion of your overhead. But with the lower overhead of online, there is more margin, and more cushion for down periods.

What I wonder is if TimesSelect will be considered “paid subs” by the offline print auditing services, and included in overall circulation by the newspaper. That would be interesting, if the answer is yes. Though I can’t imagine it would be, given it’s just the Op Ed columnists.

In any case, we’ll all be watching closely as this rolls out. I’ll be getting a sub, especially if it means I can link to the stuff behind the wall.

Update: Rick Stratton points me to this at Paid Content(scroll down): Quoting Martin Nisenholtz: “We also hope to roll out an affiliate program so the long tail can create a revenue stream for itself. If you’re a blogger who uses a lot of Times Op-Ed content in your blog you can continue to (by subscribing to TimesSelect)… and, through an affiliate network, extend that to their base and they can make money on the backend off that. We think the blogosphere needs more revenmue streams.”

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  • brian

    I see this more as a capitulation to the fact that despite its 10 million registered users it cannot monetize online advertising enough to make up for the (eventual) loss of the print product. Also, unlike the WSJ.com, the Times columnists cannot be written off as a business expense.

  • hey

    this seems to go againts the point of the opinion pages.

    the journal’s opinion pieces are freed on the opinionjournal site, with the news locked up (the news being the valuable stuff that people read the paper for).

    I don’t see many people paying to read a few columnists, whereas i can see a much greater value in the rest of the paper. I may just not be in the target demo, but are there really that many people who don’t subscribe to the NYT already that would like to pay money to read friedman, krugman, dowd, et. al. ? This would seem to restrict their impact nationally. Bad move.

  • Joe

    I would have will pay 50 for the archive. Worth it to get the articles when ever you need.

  • http://www.paidcontent.org Staci K.

    Thanks for the link. A few disparate notes:

    Unless the Audit Bureau rules change considerably, TimesSelect subscribers will not count. The digital edition has to be a replica of the print edition.

    Re linking behind the wall, my understanding is that non-subs will see an abstract, not the full article, even if they come to the site from an affiliate. I suppose that could change given that the affiliate program is in the planning stages.

    To an earlier point in the comments about the WSJ being a write-off — TimesSelect covers all columnists, including those in the business section; it also includes archive access, NewsTracker and some other facets that could be seen a reasonable business expense.

  • http://www.foreignstudios.com NIck

    - I’d like to be part of a community. If I pay the fifty bucks, how about I get the chance to blog for the Times?At the very least, invite me to some cool Times events and parties.

    Having been invited to one of these “cool Times events” I have to say, don’t get to excited. They talk about how great they are and how small you are. Their newsroom is better than yours and their reporters fly circles around you in the clouds while you rot in hell. The news room manager is a floppy genital and the hospitality is a far cry from a cockroach sandwiche.

    I’ll never go back.

  • sanford

    I can see charging for the use of the archives and what ever special things they might have. I mainly go on the Times Site to read the sports columns, the arts section and Dowd, Friedman and Rich. I can’t see paying 50 dollars just for that.

    They are going to have to attract a lot of subscriptions to make any real money. I believe they are doing this because they are the New York Times and they are considered an important paper in this country. Other than the Wall Street Journal I know of just one other paper that is charging for their on line paper. And that is the paper in Santa Barbara. I can’t believe anyone is paying to read that. But then what do I know.

  • http://www.randomculture.com John

    There’s all this hope that the Times has found a business model that might work for a newspaper online, but aren’t they still killing two HUGE sources of traffic?

    1.) Bloggers linking to stories
    2.) Search Engines

    I remember all the articles about how newspapers were killing search traffic by putting in a registration barrier. We know that Google is still including much of this behind the barrier content in their news results, but adding “registration required” dicsclaimers to the results. I know I’m less likely to click on a result if it says that.

    So wouldn’t the NY Times do far better opening up everything to everyone, in terms of search, bloggers and other sites linking to stories, etc?

    Or is it just that they have a problem with the online ad model in general?