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Out of Our Minds
Friday, September 30, 2005 11:20 AM
When Free Goes to Paid
Kevin Salwen on Culture

There's something about getting something for free that the spirit -- let alone the pocketbook -- learns to take for granted. Then getting people to make the transition is brutally hard.

The New York Times is learning that lesson with the backlash against its Times Select product. Opinion columns and other content that until last week were free and easy online now carry the pricetag of $49.95 for a year.

Fifty bucks a year for Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd might not have been something we'd have flinched at before; after all, The Wall Street Journal has charged money from the outset for its wsj.com, as has Consumer Reports' online version. But the Times started out as free for everything but archives -- and now is forcing loyalists to use that credit card for the very same items those readers had gotten free.

Now the talk is that conservatives are happy about the move, since so few people apparently are signing up and the newspaper's liberal columnists are getting fewer reads. How will that play on West 43rd Street?

So, it's only a matter of time before the game is over and the Times backs off the Select gambit. But what does that mean for digital journalism, in an industry where the revenue model has yet to be worked out?


violent - 10/9/2005 2:43:23 AM
I hate when it goes to paid
violent - 10/9/2005 2:42:38 AM
I hate when it goes to paid
Laura Bergells - 10/3/2005 8:34:13 PM
Or, you can always use your local library card.

I use mine, log in to my local library's site, and avoid paying subscription fees in the altogether. They have the online content available for free online perusal.

Marc Orchant - 9/30/2005 5:28:01 PM
While I'm not defending the decision they've made, it should be pointed out in all fairness that if you subscribe to the dead-tree version of NYT you get Times Select for free (any subscription). As I still enjoy spreading out with the Sunday New York Times, I'm able to use Times Select for no additional $$. It is kind of nice to scan the site and quickly tack a bunch of things I want to read onto a Reading List I can come back to later.
Harold - 9/30/2005 4:13:58 PM
Although Jamie and I disagree on Mr. Friedman and Mr. Krugman, (and the idea of somehow supporting Ms. Dowd gives me boils!) he's dead-on regarding cost. There should be an a la carte offering but few industries are willing to offer it. Take the cable industry. It still refuses to offer true choice to subscribers and insists on providing sheer excrement that no sane person should be subjected to as part of 'basic cable'. Basic my Aunt Fanny!

I considered becoming a subscriber but it didn't make sense to me. There just wasn't enough offered.

I think it means either going back to the drawing board or repackaging the service. Poor Old Grey Lady, it's hard to watch the elderly suffer.

Living La Vida Harold!
Jamie Whitaker - 9/30/2005 11:30:31 AM
The New York Times might be wise to allow folks to subscribe a la cart. $10 a year for Paul Krugman is something I could see myself doing. $49.95 to help support Thomas Friedman in addition to Paul Krugman? No thank you - too expensive, and its junk I don't want to pay for as far as Friedman's banter goes. Take a lesson from iTunes and Podcasting .... people will pay for what they want, and not extra for junk and garbage they despise.


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