TS

by Kieran Healy on September 18, 2005

As of this evening you can’t get access to the Op-Ed columnists of the New York Times unless you pony up for Times Select, a new subscription service. I have no plans to sign up. Don’t know about you. I doubt this spells the beginning of the end either for political bloggers or the relevance of the Op-Ed page to the chattering classes at large. But it does seem that this will reduce the columnists’ ability to set the agenda for online chatterers like ourselves. We won’t have David Brooks or Airmiles Friedman to kick around any more. But is that bad for us, or for them? NYT columnists are the pinatas of the conscience collective. If not so many people are reading them, you have to wonder whether it’s worth signing up yourself just for the content. I think we benefit at CT. The Times makes you pay to read Paul Krugman, but his substitutability with our own John Quiggin is pretty high, and as of this evening we’re therefore e a better deal than ever.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Davos Newbies » Blog Archive » The NYT Select disaster
09.19.05 at 7:33 pm
PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » The Great Experiment
09.20.05 at 9:21 pm

{ 22 comments }

1

David Sucher 09.19.05 at 12:05 am

I just signed up. But not for the columnists who are — on average — just about average in insight etc etc.. One can read as good or better in the blogosphere.

But TimesSelect allows access to 100 articles per month from the Times archives — that about 4 cents per article — and that strikes me as a fair deal indeed.

2

anon 09.19.05 at 12:26 am

Remember that if you are a print subscriber (and we get the Sunday Times) you get online premium access for no additional charge.

3

nick 09.19.05 at 12:52 am

Odd model. The WSJ charges for news content, but gives its, um, interesting opinions away for free. One would assume they know a little bit about what the market will bear. Although they haven’t yet made it possible for me to pay James Taranto to stay away from a keyboard.

It’s bad for them, frankly. The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, as Oscar W. put it.

4

John Quiggin 09.19.05 at 1:09 am

You can all start calling me “shrill”.

5

Chris Bertram 09.19.05 at 1:49 am

One thing that may limit the impact is if columnists start posting their pieces on their own websites simultaneously with the FT. John Kay and Samuel Brittan have both done this.

6

yabonn 09.19.05 at 1:50 am

Ph’nglui!

Substitutability is allright, but the two were available, and now only Quiggin remains.

Ergo, more frequent Quiggin (and Healy, D2 etc) posting is in order. (*whipcrack*)

7

bad Jim 09.19.05 at 3:30 am

Frank Rich was good, too, though we only got two pages of him weekly.

DeLong’s considerably more productive of fresh material than Krugman or Quiggin, though he offers fewer original 600 or 3,000-word articles to the general public.

I’m looking forward to the end of public comment on the output of Brooks and Friedman. Too many bits have been spilled disputing the spoutings of mediocrities.

8

Seth Finkelstein 09.19.05 at 8:01 am

Question: Substitutability in quality, undoutably. But substitutability in brand recognition?

Oh, there’s no reason to assume the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are selling identical products, in terms of news vs. opinion. In particular, for the WSJ, the opinions are closer to corporation press releases (whereas for the New York Times, the news is where one finds government press releases …).

9

James Wimberley 09.19.05 at 8:04 am

You can get Paul Krugman’s columns for free on the “unknown fan” site http://www.pkarchive.org/ .

10

James Wimberley 09.19.05 at 8:07 am

Like John kay, paul krugman allow3s his column sto b epostefd free on the figleaf site by an “unknown fan”: http://www.pkarchive.org/ .

11

MQ 09.19.05 at 9:56 am

The Times op-ed page isn’t worth a dime. Krugman is nice to read but he channels the collective wisdom of Democratic policy analysts; if you keep up with Delong, the American Prospect, etc. his stuff will not be news to use. Brooks, Tierney just put a (usually pretty lame) spin on Republican talking points. Dowd, Friedman are off in their own world and you don’t want to follow them there. The other thing here is that the 600-800 word op-ed is an extremely limited format that is unlikely to teach you very much if you already keep up with public policy and the news.

Plus, it is good to withhold your money as a small but satisfying protest against the past decade of horrible Times coverage ranging from Whitewater to the Iraq war.

12

Uncle Kvetch 09.19.05 at 10:12 am

Plus, it is good to withhold your money as a small but satisfying protest against the past decade of horrible Times coverage ranging from Whitewater to the Iraq war.

That’s pretty much where I’m at, mq. I bought the print version of the Sunday Times faithfully until a couple of years ago, and it was essentially the disgraceful hackery of that supposed First Amendment Martyr Judy Miller that pushed me over the edge. I’ll miss Krugman and especially Frank Rich, but I wouldn’t dream of giving the NYT a dime unless & until there’s a thorough housecleaning (and I’m not holding my breath on that).

13

Slocum 09.19.05 at 12:09 pm

Given that the columns are, apparently, going to continue to be syndicated and appear on other free news sites, I don’t think this will have much effect. The NY Times columnists will lose a little influence, the Times will get a little money, and it will give up on the experiment in a little while.

14

Charles Dodgson 09.19.05 at 1:48 pm

As long as we’re on the subject of what it makes sense to charge for, it seems to me that the Times — and a lot of other major news sources — are getting archive charges exactly backward. The most useful and popular stuff they have, by a wide margin, is the current day’s news. So why not put the current stuff behind the pay wall, and open it up after a week? That way, the archives would be the loss leader for the more valuable current content; right now, they’re doing the reverse.

(A side benefit to the blogging community would be that we wouldn’t need to strip-mine Dave Winer’s RSS feed for semi-permanent links to Times news coverage, but I wouldn’t expect that annoyance to play a role in their decision making. Though to the extent that they’re considering blogs at all, perhaps it should…)

15

steve kyle 09.19.05 at 6:57 pm

You may think the Times columnists are worthless. Perhaps they are. But a lot of people are like my mother and think that what these people say is very very important. So it makes sense to read them if only to get an idea of what millions of people who consider themselves well informed are being told to think. If you are politically inclined, this is where the general public gets its frame on major issues. Also, even with complete idiots like Brooks it is possible every once in a while for a reasonable idea to surface. And when there are no reasonable ideas what better way to reconfirm your happiness that you arent a Republican?

16

Will Baude 09.19.05 at 7:15 pm

My understanding is that the Times has a new syndication deal that will forbid other newspapers to offer up the columns for free. I don’t know what sort of deal it has with the authors, or whether the pkarchive site is legal.

17

bostoniangirl 09.19.05 at 8:55 pm

I wonder whether the Krugman unofficial archive would continue to be tolerated by the New York Times but for the fact that Krugman’s columns are sydicated.

18

RedWolf 09.19.05 at 10:52 pm

Then NYT will sue those illegally downloading oped pieces. Brooks and Tireme will support under the Bush doctrine.

19

Kirk Parker 09.19.05 at 11:50 pm

bad jim,

This must be some new meaning of the word “good”…

Or do you mean waaaay back when he used to be a theater critic?

20

Kevin Brancato 09.20.05 at 8:26 am

This is like Wal-Mart requiring a membership fee to shop at any of their stores; this would be an immense signal to the other discount retail chains that the time to expand is now…

21

Alex 09.20.05 at 9:36 am

I decided to pay for a subscription and, so far, am actually rather pleased with the Select product. Apart from access to the columnists that I used to read for free, there is promise of pseudo-blogs for each of those writers, fairly extensive access to the archives, a decently handy “Times File” in which to store articles to come back to, and access to columnists at IHT (which I admit to never reading before, was this formerly free?). Is it worth the forty dollars? I’m inclined to say that it is.

It really shouldn’t surprise anybody that the Times would eventually devise some form of subscription service for their online content. Their online readership has got to be immense, and up until now they haven’t asked for anything, other than a practiced overlooking of a few unobtrusive advertisements. At times it seems to me that a significant portion of writing in the blogosphere could be classified as Times commentary and, while this does much to expand the brand-name’s dominion, it does little to pay the bills and the writers. While this new ploy may not be a cash-cow, it hardly seems fitting to begrudge their attempt to make some money from being the most prominent daily on the web.

22

ndebord 09.21.05 at 12:14 am

Really can’t abide the concept of blocking the Times columnists from the world wide web unless you pony up bucks. Sent this letter to the new Editor of the Times in protest.

“A letter to the Editor in Chief Leonard M. Apcar

The idea that your best and brightest writers are now behind a pay to view firewall (online) discredits your standing as the premier opinion maker in journalism today.

Precisely because of this ill-thought out money grab by the New York Times, I will no longer buy the Sunday Times, which I have bought religiously for some 25 years. I’ll also miss some of my favorite writers online, but I’ll get over it as I peruse the Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post instead.”

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