Monday, May 16, 2005

eComerce Genius Alert

It isn't every day that someone decides to reinvent the wheel, but that's what the New York Times is doing now.

In September, the Times will begin offering "TimesSelect" (note to professional namers: that "sS" is awkward and off-putting), which will be a $49.95 subscription in order to get access to Times opinion pieces. How is this reinventing the wheel?

There's only one major print entity making real money on the web: The Wall Street Journal. The Journal has done this by keeping an absolute zone of protection around its news product: If you want to read the news from the Journal online, you have to pay, and pay dearly (($79 a year). But the Journal long ago decided to give away it's opinion pieces for free. To this end it created

So the folks at the New York Times Company have surveyed the marketplace, seen everyone else lose their shirts, locked onto the one winner and said to themselves, Hey, let's just use the formula the Journal uses--only backwards! We'll give all the news away, but charge them for the op-eds!

Maybe this will work out for the Times--I hope it does. But I have to wonder why they think they've outsmarted the only winner in the marketplace. TimesSelect has "bust" written all over it.


Kathleen Nelson said...

I would be curious to see how they worked out the math on that one. I know they make a fortune on their wire service, so it would be interesting to see if that was part of the justification.

Their opinion is, generally speaking, not worth much. Maybe they're trying to say that it is?

Michael said...

I'm confused -- When did the NYT's "news" pieces stop doubling as op-eds?

That Dude said...

it may work financially, however I would be it only amplifies the echo chamber effect for the op ed colunists. This will in essence marginalize them further.

Anonymous said...

Kathleen Nelson said... "I know they make a fortune on their wire service..."
Precisely why they cannot get away with charging for their original versions, it's already readily available from other newspaper Web sites across the land.

Last week they started loading some sort of ActiveX program, that IE6 blocks (but with an annoying double beep), so I've pretty much stopped visiting at all. Even without that development though, I found myself visiting the Blogosphere to read the critiques of the Op-Eds first and increasingly found it not worth reading the originals at all.

The question I guess is whether a fair number of bloggers subscribe in order to continue their critiques, or will the Times fade out of the consciousness altogether? I tend to think it'll be the latter.

Odds are as they see that happening they'll roll it back (60 days max with a 10 of 12 months refund to the few that bought it).

Anonymous said...

Sweet, now maybe they will put Modo, Krugman, and Bob Herbert in a threesome. Mmmmmmm...... Modo sandwich.......

ELC said...

With all due respect, I don't think this really has anything to do with money (even if they say it does). I think it has to do with NYT having the most bitterly partisan columnists in the country, consistently writing the most fact-free, irrational, and juvenile articles one could imagine finding in a major newspaper. A couple of years ago (or whenever it was) when NYT changed the free availability of its stories from 30 days to one week, I thought it was because they wanted it to be harder for the bloggers to fact-check and reality-clue the columnists. I still think so. And I think this further step is another way to make it even harder to do. So, call me paranoid: I've been called worse, and not very long ago. :-)

Cal Lanier said...

I wrote this a while back when the Times first revealed it was thinking of going pay: Pay for View. I mention this not to flog the article, but because it has some info that contradicts the longstanding wisdom that the WSJ is the only successful pay site.

"A year ago, the Journal began including their unique paid online subscriptions in their circulation numbers, boosting the latter by 200,000. 200,000 uniques means that around 500,000 of their online subscribers subscribe to the print version as well. Their print circulation numbers have stagnated at around 1.8M--in fact, from 2002 to 2003, they added only 43 print readers. "

That said, certainly WSJ is the only major site that has successfully grown its online publication. But that's because it meets three necessary criteria as a business publication (not as a news site): it's a premium site, it's information not available elsewhere, and its customers use it professionally and/or to make money (which, among other things, makes it a tax deduction). The Times has none of those three.

"I thought it was because they wanted it to be harder for the bloggers to fact-check and reality-clue the columnists."

The columnists have very little reason to be happy about this change. Columnists want a large audience, don't they? It's what gets them book deals and TV appearances, and a spot on Capital Gang?

What I can't figure out is how they're going to charge for Op Ed without ensuring their columnists are exclusive. You think Paul Krugman's going to give up his syndication? And if he doesn't, what is the Times charging for that can't be obtained elsewhere for free?