May 16, 2005
One Last Times
The New York Times Co. (NYT) on Monday said that, starting in September, access to Op-Ed and certain of its top news columnists on the paper's NYTimes.com Web site will only be available through a fee of $49.95 a year. The service, known as TimesSelect, will also allow access to The Times's online archives, early access to select articles on the site, and other features.
Ouch. I like making fun of Brooks as much as the next guy, but it's not the sort of pleasure I'd pay $50 a year to retain. And, indeed, I've a sneaking feeling few others will, either. Awhile back, I argued that the NYT couldn't go subscription because it had too many competitors offering exactly the same service for free. Were they to demand $10 for me to read their news, I'd simply redirect my mail over to the Washington Post's site and that'd be that. I guess Bill Keller realized that too, which is why he decided to hide the paper's single idiosyncratic bit, its op-ed columnists.
But I fear his decision rests on some inaccurate information. Blogospheric laziness has given the Times' op-ed columnists a must-read status they really don't deserve. Brooks and Tierney are widely linked, but only because they're easily demolished when you've just woken up and have nothing original to say. Krugman's nice enough, but his arguments generally ricochet through the blogosphere days, or even weeks, before he makes them. So who's left? Kristof? Herbert? Dowd? Rich? It's just not worth the cost.
I'd guess that the hits and discussion generated by the Times' op-ed writers convinced the paper's higher-ups that their opinion page was a must-read and people would follow it behind a subscription wall. They're wrong. The Washington Post has a great op-ed lineup with a terrible site layout, and the LA Times has an occasionally decent piece with a marginally better html scheme. Give them a web designer and the two could easily supplant the NYT's spot as the go-to op-ed source because, in the end, we're not really looking to read the writers, we're simply searching for a stupid or brilliant paragraph that we can write about, and those paragraphs, unfortunately for the Times, can be found most anywhere you look. Till now, searching for them on Keller's sheet was the blogosphere's habit. Demand a toll for it, however, and that habit will instantly change.
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» No More Krugman, No More Brooks.... from Political Animal
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Brooks and Tierney are widely linked, but only because they're easily demolished when you've just woken up and have nothing original to say.
That's about right.
Posted by: John | May 16, 2005 1:55:10 PM
Being able to read Brooks and Tierney is not even with $0.49. I just hope BlogLand allows us access to Krugman's excellent op-eds.
Posted by: pgl | May 16, 2005 2:14:00 PM
What's funny is that this is backwards from the WSJ, which makes you pay for their news but gives you their editorials and op-eds for free. Of course, on the WSJ, it's the news that is high quality.
If they got one more center-left columnist with some substance I would pay $50 a year. And I'm sure they'd create some kind of student discount program.
Posted by: Electoral Math | May 16, 2005 2:14:31 PM
This is exactly right. The comparative advantage of the Times' columnists over Joe Blogger is ... well, there isn't any. This is idiotic.
Posted by: praktike | May 16, 2005 2:16:08 PM
I'll miss Maureen. I know I'm the only one, but I'll still miss her.
It's an odd move, and I'd assume it can't persist as is. Either it'll be rescinded, or the whole paper will go subscription only.
And people can try to shrug it off all they want, but subscription walls are an ominous storm cloud hovering over the blogosphere's future. The future could end up looking like Drudge, with everyone linking only to Reuters.
Posted by: Petey | May 16, 2005 2:37:34 PM
I'm sorry praktike and Ezra, but this isn't exactly right. It's not as simple as saying "what's good for blogs is good for the NYT." It is an open question how the Times, or anyone that publishes content on the Web, can best tell who is reading their pages because it is "must read" material and who is reading it so that they can link it on their blogs in order to trash it.
It's not just a matter of counting the link-backs, because the majority of Web users still don't read blogs and could give a good god damn what any of us say about the latest op-ed. Either the blogosphere is overstating its importance and value, or the Times knows something about its non-blog-aware readership. I'd bet on the former.
Posted by: diddy | May 16, 2005 2:43:01 PM
Amen, amen, amen. Well said, Ezra.
Posted by: David Yaseen | May 16, 2005 3:26:09 PM
I read a lot of newspapers online, but I also read one to three paper ones daily and all of these guys are syndicated. So I have to wait a day to get the full version of Krugman. I will know the key parts by then anyway through the miracle of cut and paste.
Posted by: Bruce Webb | May 16, 2005 3:40:03 PM
All is blog, diddy. All is blog. Bow before the blogosphere, NOW!
Posted by: praktike | May 16, 2005 4:08:18 PM
David Brooks is for sissies. He's either plain wrong not making sense (in other words, "not even wrong").
Debunking Krauthammer is far more of a challenge. Krauthammer is truly diabolical. He will pimp for the Repubs by using false logic and leaving out facts in a way that implies he knows he's lying and pimping for the repubs.
He's the Sith master of Op/Eds.
Posted by: jasper emmering | May 16, 2005 4:19:47 PM
Er, um, I think you're giving Dr. K. a lot more credit than he deserves. I've never found his pieces all that impressive. You can invariably tell where a Krauthammer screed's going to end up after the first paragraph. At least George Will surprises me from time to time....
As to the NY Times' subscription barrier -- sure, why not? The "paper of record" is living off old glories anyway; it may as well veer away from the future.
Posted by: sglover | May 16, 2005 5:09:06 PM
Krugman has been accessible for quite a while here:
Little is that time-sensitive or urgent that it can't wait the few hours or so until it is posted there.
Posted by: voxd | May 16, 2005 6:41:46 PM
Whil you can now go somewhere else for free don't expect that to last. Wall St. Journal already charges and many of these companies I know as I work in that industry are looking to make up the money from the declines in circulation through charges on the web. The times may be first but the Times Media company owns many other papers across the country as well as the IHT.
I would guess that once the flood gates are opened the ones the Times owns as well as others will move in this direction. I belive the NY Times has 3.5 Million subscribers to its online edition if they were to get even 1/6 of those subscribers who will pay that will be huge. Also print subscribers get this access for free as part of their subscription.
Posted by: Adam | May 16, 2005 7:05:57 PM
if you were krugman or dowd, would you stay with the times if your columns went behind a subscription wall? op-ed writers naturally want to have their opinions read as widely as possible. if they're subscripton only, they won't matter. if it happens, the times will lose their better op-ed writers, and maybe even david brooks as well.
Posted by: snuh | May 16, 2005 7:18:16 PM
The thing the NY Times hasn't thought about is that other paper pick up their editorials. Those will be available to anyone who wants them.
Posted by: Judy | May 16, 2005 7:19:51 PM
From an Business section article Saturday; won't quote but paraphrase the highlights:
the Dallas Morning News circulation in the six month period ending Mar 31 2005 declined 9.6% daily and 13.2% Sunday
Big newspapers are dying before your eyes. You won't believe it until they are gone, or simply a tiny shell around some classifieds.
Posted by: bob mcmanus | May 16, 2005 8:32:39 PM
What are these guys doing? They're dooming themselves to being obsoltete. Maybe it'll increase their subscription rate in the immediate area, but it's going to kill them on a national level.
Are they in that much trouble? Or are they just being greedy...some might say..hubristic?
Posted by: Karmakin | May 17, 2005 12:00:54 AM
I agree with you that Krauthammer is a most predictable hack. I even agree that it's usually also pretty easy to say why he is wrong.
But if you take the trouble to debunk not his general point but his specific arguments, you'll find that he is evil. You can always be sure that he has left out important facts and distorted the rest. It's only possible to write a Krauthammer column if you're absolutely dishonest.
Krauthammer's not some clueless idiot like Brooks (or Friedman for that matter) who inflate random factoids into sociological nonsense.
George Will may surprise you from time to time. But Krauthammer surprises me every single time! Because once you fact-check hiss ass, the depravity always runs a little deeper than you'd expected at first glance.
Posted by: jasper emmering | May 17, 2005 3:41:03 PM
Wouldn't it be fantastic if all of the NYT columnists developed blogs just so their voices could be relevant again?
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