The New York Post is reporting that The New York Times is getting ready to eliminate its Time Select subscription service. Unlike pretty much every other newspaper on the planet (with the exception of the Wall Street Journal), the New York Times has maintained a wall between free and subscription content online.
The idea might have made sense a few years ago when nobody was entirely sure how newspapers were going to make money online. Well, the execs said, since we’re going to lose out on paper subscriptions by giving stuff away for free online, why don’t we charge a monthly fee for some of our more popular content?
But the truth of the matter is that you get far more eyeballs when you’re not locking away your content from the general public. The reality of Web 2.0 news is that people a rising tide raises all the ships. If you’ve got good content, and the Times does, people will link to it. When people read a technology blog like Engadget or a political blog like Daily Kos and find links to articles at the New York Times, everybody wins. Keeping your archives, op-eds, and other content locked up means that blogs and news sites won’t link to you, won’t give you credit for finding a story first, and won’t drive up your traffic.
Will online advertising revenue make up for print subscription/advertising revenue? It’s really not clear, but at this point, the answer seems to be no. But considering that only a small portion of readers were likely to pay for Times Select access, it shouldn’t be too hard for increased ad revenue to replace any money lost by canceling the subscription service.
Of course, as with anything written in the New York Post, you have to take this report with a grain of salt. It’s based on an anonymous source who claims that the company will eliminate Times Select service. But there’s no official confirmation from anyone who would give their name. And according to the Post, the change won’t occur until “software issues” are resolved. Because you know, it takes a major software upgrade to make content that’s already available online available for free.