By Steve Outing
I’m not at all surprised that NYTimes.com has decided to scrap its TimesSelect paid premium content program. That was the program that put (among other things) the Times’ popular op-ed columnists behind a paid subscription wall.
The Times story on the move blames Google, in effect, for the failure of TimesSelect to do better. More traffic than anticipated came from search engine referrals as well as inbound traffic from blogs and other websites, rather than directly through the NYTimes.com homepage. And that other-sourced traffic was less likely to pony up for a paid subscription. Ergo, it was time to figure out how to monetize that other inbound traffic; TimesSelect wasn’t helping.
Looking back on my writing, when TimesSelect debuted I gave it a chance of succeeding but was skeptical. I guess I should have been much more skeptical.
Does this mean that paid content is dead for online newspapers? No. It does mean that the bar for what can be charged for is set higher. If you’ve got truly unique content that people want, and that can’t be found elsewhere, there’s still a chance.