Internet/Telecom/Social Media

Finally, a welcome extinction – TimesSelect

As of September 19, the New York Times’ subscription service for so-called premium content has been shut down, opening up free access to the NYTimes’ opinion and news commentators, online-only exclusives, and access to the archives back to 1987, content that had been subscription only since 2005. And the reason that the NYTimes is voluntarily ending a subscription service that earned them about $10 million per year?

Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism.
(Source: A Letter to Readers About TimesSelect, by Vivian Schiller, Senior Vice President & General Manager, NYTimes.com)

Well, that and the fact that NYTimes.com believe that they’ll make back more in advertising revenues by building their brand than the measly $10 million per year.

Frankly, I actually hope they’re right. When the NYTimes announced TimesSelect in 2005, I went hunting for alternative editorial voices, because I was no longer going to be able to read Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich (all of whom I generally like), David Brooks (who I generally don’t), and Nicholas D. Kristof (who I always find interesting, regardless of whether I agree or not). Because of my experience listening to David Brooks and E.J. Dionne discussing political issues on NPR, I started with the Washington Post opinion crew, and after trying a couple of others as well (namely the LA Times and Boston Herald), I stuck with the Post. But I still missed reading Krugman’s economic analyses, and when I wanted to blog on Friedman’s columns in The Denver Post, I always had to find a secondary source to link to, because his stuff was behind the TimesSelect firewall.

But even if the NYTimes is wrong, there’s no turning back, at least not for me. I still enjoy reading Krugman et al, and I’ll add the Times opinion page to my daily reading instead of replacing the Post’s page with the Times’ page. But it’ll be nice to be able to read everything at the NYTimes again.

With a little luck, Rupert Murdoch will follow through on his threat and drop the subscription-only Wall Street Journal online news….

12 replies »

  1. Gah, you like Friedman? No wonder your priorities are warped. 🙂

    Seriously, the man is unreadable. His whole guiding principle for his work is “I bought something really cool and easy to use, and that’s why Americans should stop worrying and learn to love globalism.” I do love Krugman, though.

    I actually think you were better served by hunting down voices that were off the beaten path and not disseminated by the major media outlets. Much like A-list blogs that people stop reading–eventually, they’ll come to us for genuinely readable and enlightening content.

  2. Methinks you don’t give Friedman near enough credit.

    I’ve learned I can’t stand his Discovery documentaries because they’re aimed at an audience way less informed than what I think the Discovery channel’s audience really is, but that’s just me.

    Friedman’s insights on the Middle East are invaluable, his thoughts on globalization are pretty well researched and his broad strokes are spot-on (I’m still looking forward to our debate on “The World Is Flat”, BTW), and he’s done at least as much as Gore to raise the profile of global heating but with a much better understanding of the scale of the problem.

    As much as I’d love to hunt down those voices (like us here at S&R), I simply have to prioritize my time. Family, work, and blogging here are higher priority than even checking out most of our own blogroll, I’m afraid.

    Besides, I’ve been reading the NYTimes commentators since 1991 – by now they’re almost like old friends.

  3. I have to agree with Martin on this one, Brian. Friedman is a mouthpiece for corporate interests who want their “screw America for money” business strategy validated. I can’t give any credence to a guy who justifies off-shoring for purely economic reasons. I much prefer someone like Robert Reich who admonishes us to be willing to pay a little more for our goods and services in the name of real American independence – freeing ourselves from being such a debtor nation.

    We’re in full agreement on Krugman and Brooks. 🙂

  4. Brian,

    People who couldn’t be bothered to look up coverage of the Jena 6, for instance, missed Jim’s thorough study of the whole affair. It’s the same attitude you’re espousing–“Oh, I’m too busy and can’t be bothered.” If you want truly diverse perspectives and insights on issues, ya gotta go huntin’ for ’em. Otherwise you get lulled into thinking that people like Brooks, Friedman, and the like represent the consensus–when nothing could be further from the truth.

    I use my sister as an example–she’s a single mother and a freelancer, and she finds time to stay informed on the issues of the day. If she can handle all that, so can you. Man up, brah! 🙂

    And I give Friedman more credit than he deserves–the man is a hack, an Iraq War enabler, and a guy who is bedazzled by his rich lifestyle and is utterly out of touch with the people he’s writing for and about.

  5. Jim and Martin – Here’s the gist of Friedman’s economic arguments (since that’s what you’re both focusing on, I’ll do the same for the moment)

    Globalization is a fact of economics at this point – we could withdraw from the global market, of course, but doing so will hurt the U.S. economy. This is not opinion, it is fact.

    It took at least a decade (probably more like 15-20 years, actually) for the U.S. to conclude that short-term profit is all that matters, so until we can change our corporate culture (a process that will take roughly the same amount of time once the decision to do so is actually made – and that hasn’t happened yet), we will need to compete effectively in a global market to survive. This is also fact.

    The best way to make sure we compete effectively over the long run is via education. This is opinion, but educated opinion (pun intended), and opinion that I agree with.

    We’re in for a rough ride in the short term. This is fact, and we’re experiencing it right now.

    Ultimately, raising the standard of living of the rest of the world benefits the U.S. too. This is debatable, but it jives well with what I was taught in my economics classes in college, so I tend to agree with it.

    Technology has become a deterministic factor in economics and history. Again, as a technophile myself, I tend to agree with this as well, although as Friedman himself points out in “The World is Flat”, there are strong counter-currents these days, of which al-Qaeda is one of the nastier ones.

    As for Friedman’s views on Iraq, I happen to agree with the “It was a dumb idea to break it, but we broke it, so we bought it” school of thought that Friedman has come around to in recent years. Pulling out now without figuring out what to fill the power vacuum with first would be bad.

    Sorry, guys, but from my perspective, Friedman has a pretty clear set of glasses.

  6. Martin, I’ll give you that my “I’m too damn busy” argument isn’t exactly satisfying, but it’s the truth. I happily look at stuff that people point me to, but I simply do not have the time to search the blogs every day. I have a hard enough time keeping up with reading and writing for this one.

    I do make time here and there, but it’s probably only an hour or two a month for tracking down new stuff that people don’t point me to. Thankfully, I know a lot of people who point me at new stuff from time to time – including everyone here.

  7. I now officially have a headache listening to you guys yap about Friedman. But I’ll say this: You have to read Friedman

  8. Ah, yes.

    The Pale Shadows – with a rotating line-up of any rocker who ever wore Spandex after sixty.

  9. Euphrosyne:

    Nah, there’s too many people to read, both in print and on the Internet. Nowadays, we need to make snap judgments based on a few sentences or we’ll never get anywhere.

    That’s all it takes to tell where Friedman’s coming from. Anyone who reads a whole column of his, not to mention one of his bestsellers, deserves a medal.

    Sam:

    Hell has a great band. I’m listnening to it right now — Big Black (Nirvana producer Steve Albini’s band from the eighties).

    “There’s kerosene around. Find something to do. Kersosene around. Set me on fire!”