Saturday, October 22, 2005

'Choice Select' for Maureen Dowd

"Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover 'the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country.' If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands."

-- Maureen Dowd, New York Times

The New York Times began hiding its regular opinion columnists behind a subscription-only screen called 'Times Select' a couple of weeks ago. Many think it's a strategy destined to fail in these times of unregulated, chaotic blogging. Someone at the Times, obviously, disagrees.

The argument against is that most people, to borrow from the name given one new blog Never Pay Retail. Full text copies leak onto 'the internets' faster than you can say "bootleg."

'But that's not legal' the argument for rejoins.

'Impossible to police,' comes the answer.

Today, as all days, offers a typical example. So, let's have an experiment. You, dear reader, are the subject under the microscope.

If you want to read Maureen Dowd's entertainingly snarky reminiscence about her fellow Times journalist, Judith ("Miss Run Amok") Miller, here's your choice: Pay the Times $49.95 for an annual subscription... or, chuckle over the unflattering, gossipy portrait for free at any number of blogs, like this one run by Tennesee Guerilla Woman... or this one at Oak Park Girl... or another version with preface at Cyphering... or Donkey O.D. ... or Nashville News ... etc. etc. etc. etc.

What're you going to do? Pay to read or read for free?


Anonymous said...

I wrote the publisher of the Times a long letter on the futility of trying to keep digital information behind a firewall. Hasn't the Times looked at what's happened to the music industry? They should have learned a lesson from that.

What they also don't understand is that columnists like Krugman, Herbert, Dowd and even Brooks have become increasingly popular _because_ of Internet exposure. People who never buy the times and who were only vaguely aware of these columnists' existence have had the chance to learn more and become fans.

If they're smart, they'll find another model: look to the music industry again -- Apple, specifically -- and lower prices. You wouldn't pay $50 a year, but would you pay $1.50 or $2.00 for a month's access (by the month, not the year). I'd personally pay that, just for convenience.

Or, sink to vile commerce and start doing more direct marketing with the info they pick up on user's habits: books, videos, classes, seminars.

But trying to make the Op/Ed page into a high-priced, private site? That's so -- 1991.

Spoilsport said...

The NYT columns are all still free online to anyone who browses some blogs for the text. (Try the blog search engine that Google offers.)

I suspect that the whole point of the new "Times Select" has nothing whatsoever to do with angling to inconvenience or squeeze money from web surfers. Rather, it's a sensible way for the NY Times to raise some money from businesses or individuals that are going to simply pay the official access fee and write it off on their taxes as a legitimate business expense.