Mr. Nisenholtz emphatically defended the $49.95 price tag for
TimesSelect. "People think nothing of ordering a $25 martini at the
hotel bar — but pay 50 bucks for archived material at the Times? Oh my God!"
Gee, I don’t know about you, fair reader, but I knock back those $25 martinis three at a time, so Times Select won’t be a problem for me! But seriously, Nisenholtz has surely taken temporary leave of his senses in comparing the new subscription service to a lousy hotel martini. And if the tone deafness he’s exhibited in this talk covered by AdAge is any indication of the amount of thought and preparation they’ve given to the new service, then it will drop like a thud into the marketplace.
I am a daily subscriber to the Times. Even though I live in Seattle, I grew up in New York and the Times is my family’s newspaper of record going back two generations. So the Times is in my blood, so to speak. As a subscriber, I will get the benefit of TimesSelect without paying. But what if I weren’t a Times subscriber? Would it be worth $49.95 to me? Not a chance. I sometimes link here to stories in the Washington Post or Los Angeles Times. Would I pay $49.95 in return for online access to the 10 articles I link to each year from each publication? Not a chance.
There’s a possibility that New Yorkers who don’t subscribe to the Times might pay for this service and perhaps there are a significant number of these potential customers out there. But I just don’t see where the market’s going to be.
Perhaps one of my readers can explain to me the "revenue-sharing" proposal with bloggers that Niesenholtz mentions:
"Why can’t Amazon.com-type revenue shares apply to information sites?"
he asked the audience, saying he is kicking around the blog idea and
wants feedback from potential partners. He explained the idea as a
revenue-sharing arrangement with bloggers who would offer the paper’s
columns to their users in the blogosphere. "They would be agents of the
Times," he said.
Is he talking about Amazon Associates who earn 5% of every sale that emanates from their websites? If so, he’s dreaming a strange dream. I’m an Amazon Associate (though not a very successful one I’m afraid) and this program is totally different than what is my understanding of the blogger-Times proposal. If I understand him correctly, Nisenholtz is proposing that bloggers add NYT links to their posts so their readers will purchase articles by columnists and others which are locked behind the pay barrier. But would any of my readers want to shell out that $2.95?
An earilier AdAge article about TimesSelect points out that the only content going behind the paid barrier will be its Op-Ed columnists, 14 daily featured columnists and two International Herald Tribune columnists. In my blog, I hardly ever link to any of these columnists. So my blog isn’t in danger of losing access to most of the material I need to write my blog. But I’m afraid that the days of posting about Maureen Dowd’s wonderful columns may be over.
I have another question: will bloggers who are daily subscribers be able to link freely to Times’ paid stories for their visitors? I’m assuming the answer is No (though hope I’m wrong). It would be deeply unfortunate if our readers lose access to the stories we’re posting about. In fact, it doesn’t really make sense to post about pay only articles at all. How would you readers read them unless they paid? I guess I’ll have to start paying a lot more attention to the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times and all those other publications who haven’t yet determined to monetize their product.
And what will happen to the wonderful RadioUserland permanent links to New York Times articles which bloggers can use now? I’m guessing that these links will no longer work for the paid content.
By the way, one thing you’ll notice in the Times’ own coverage of the new service is that they do not quote anyone who thinks it’s a bad idea. They don’t quote readers, they don’t quote bloggers, no one outside the paper itself (except for a Bear, Stearns analyst who thinks it’s a peachy keen idea–surprise!). The only reporters they quote are John Tierney, their capitalist Safire wannabe and Clyde Haberman. I notice there’s no quote from Maureen Dowd. Could it be she’s not too hot about the idea? And gee, could it be a coincidence that no voices outside the Times are heard? Maybe they don’t want their readers to hear any voices of dissent? Well, to any NYT intrepid reporter reading this who wants to do a fair version of this story–I’ll give you a piece of my mind if you call.
And a bravo to Washington Post CEO Donald Graham who has emphatically ruled out such a plan for the Post.