By Steve Outing
It appears that TimesSelect is about to die. That’s the New York Times’ premium web subscription service, which takes some of the best content on its website (like the respected op-ed columnists) and puts it behind a pay wall.
A couple years ago I wrote a cautiously optimistic column for Editor & Publisher (sorry, no link; it’s behind a paid archive wall now) about TimesSelect. I thought then that really, really good, valuable and unique content could win a large number of paid subscribers. And I believed that the model of cherry-picking the best stuff while leaving everything else as free access could work for a news organization like the Times. (I wouldn’t say the same thing for a smaller paper.)
But I’ve changed my mind. NYT’s op-ed stars (Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, et al) are important to the paper, and no doubt what they write is valuable to the Times brand. But what’s wrong with putting them behind a paid wall is that they will never grow a new generation of younger readers, because those people won’t pay.
The Times will be smart to get the op-ed crew out from behind the wall, where their influence will expand globally, and they’ll bring new readers to the NYT brand. The Times took a hit on its influence when it hid its op-ed celebs from the masses. Sounds like company executives finally figured that out.