New York Times Drops Its "Times Select" Firewall (updated)

Rick Moran
Ed Morrissey pithily refers to it as "The Firewall of Sanity." The Times Select feature of the online New York Times has protected most of us from the spittle-flecked rants of Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and Bob Herbert for more than two years, thus preserving if not the sanity then certainly the blood pressure of conservatives who surf the web.

But after discovering to their surprise that they could have made more advertising money by opening up their op-ed pages to the public, the Times has given in to reality and will now make their op-ed pages available free of charge once again: 
The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight Tuesday night.

The move comes two years to the day after The Times began the subscription program, TimesSelect, which has charged $49.95 a year, or $7.95 a month, for online access to the work of its columnists and to the newspaper’s archives. TimesSelect has been free to print subscribers to The Times and to some students and educators.

In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free.
The news about making the archives available for free back to 1987 is most welcome. Regardless of the paper's liberal bent, they still cover more subjects more thoroughly than just about any paper in the country. I know I will spend many enjoyable hours researching topics using that free access to their archives.

Prior to the Times Select feature being added, the far left columnists at the Times were tremendous fodder for conservative blogs. I fully expect that to once again be one of the main attractions of reading the op-ed pages of the Times as bloggers vie to see who can point out the dumbest, the most inane or the most unintentionally funny things written by Times writers.
 
Update from Thomas Lifson:

Nobody is happier with this change than Tom Friedman, who last year bitterly complained that his audience, especially his overseas readership, was limited by the firewall.

The Times still faces the problem of generating advertising revenue from the web sufficient to make up for the lost subscription fees and the decline in demand for newspaper advertising. Friedman's complaints about Times Select last year included this revealing commentary [transcribed from a video]:

"We have to make money somehow. The traditional dead tree way of going about it doesn't provide enough to go forward....

"The meta-dilemma is this: we're trying to do is jump kinda from here to here [hand gestures], from dead trees to a pay version of online. And what I hear (and I don't know, 'cause it's really all unknown, is what you really have to do is jump from here all the way to here [hand gestures], just totally online, and build up the biggest community you can, and hope [looks upward as if to God] you can somehow monetize it. You know what I mean? And that's... the really big challenge.

"And hey, if you're the board of the New York Times and you've got fiduciary responsibilities...[inaudible comments]  it's the dilemma of the news business."
The tradeoff made by the Times with its latest move is echoed by this Reuters report:
News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said on Tuesday that he was leaning toward making online Wall Street Journal free, but had made no decision yet. [....]

Murdoch said making the site, which currently charges a annual subscription fee of $99, freely available online would help boost viewership -- and revenue -- globally.

"'If you make it free, it will hurt the paper' -- I don't think so," he told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia media conference in New York.

He added: "That looks the way we're going."

Murdoch's comments came a day after the New York Times Co said it would end its paid TimesSelect service to attract more online ads.
I take both announcements as indicators that the dead tree model of journalism is dying faster than most observers (but not me) predicted.

In order to make free web dissemination business model work well, however,  newspapers will have to charge more for web advertising and find more ways to include ads in their content. At the moment, it is hard to actually earn advertising revenue from the web which compares with printed page revenue. One major problem is that media buyers at advertising agencies do not yet have comparable tools to use in evaluating web advertising as those developed for older media. Inertia is also an issue.

Now that two major newspaper companies are throwing their lot in with advertising-supported web publication strategies, the trend toward spending a bigger slice of advertising budgets on the web will accelerate. Ironically, this trend will also benefit start-up new media ventures, including American Thinker.

Everyone wins.
Well, except for blue collar press workers like those the Times is laying off in Edison, NJ and Flushing, NY. I am certain the bleeding hearts at the Times are very concerned.
Ed Morrissey pithily refers to it as "The Firewall of Sanity." The Times Select feature of the online New York Times has protected most of us from the spittle-flecked rants of Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and Bob Herbert for more than two years, thus preserving if not the sanity then certainly the blood pressure of conservatives who surf the web.

But after discovering to their surprise that they could have made more advertising money by opening up their op-ed pages to the public, the Times has given in to reality and will now make their op-ed pages available free of charge once again: 
The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight Tuesday night.

The move comes two years to the day after The Times began the subscription program, TimesSelect, which has charged $49.95 a year, or $7.95 a month, for online access to the work of its columnists and to the newspaper’s archives. TimesSelect has been free to print subscribers to The Times and to some students and educators.

In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free.
The news about making the archives available for free back to 1987 is most welcome. Regardless of the paper's liberal bent, they still cover more subjects more thoroughly than just about any paper in the country. I know I will spend many enjoyable hours researching topics using that free access to their archives.

Prior to the Times Select feature being added, the far left columnists at the Times were tremendous fodder for conservative blogs. I fully expect that to once again be one of the main attractions of reading the op-ed pages of the Times as bloggers vie to see who can point out the dumbest, the most inane or the most unintentionally funny things written by Times writers.
 
Update from Thomas Lifson:

Nobody is happier with this change than Tom Friedman, who last year bitterly complained that his audience, especially his overseas readership, was limited by the firewall.

The Times still faces the problem of generating advertising revenue from the web sufficient to make up for the lost subscription fees and the decline in demand for newspaper advertising. Friedman's complaints about Times Select last year included this revealing commentary [transcribed from a video]:

"We have to make money somehow. The traditional dead tree way of going about it doesn't provide enough to go forward....

"The meta-dilemma is this: we're trying to do is jump kinda from here to here [hand gestures], from dead trees to a pay version of online. And what I hear (and I don't know, 'cause it's really all unknown, is what you really have to do is jump from here all the way to here [hand gestures], just totally online, and build up the biggest community you can, and hope [looks upward as if to God] you can somehow monetize it. You know what I mean? And that's... the really big challenge.

"And hey, if you're the board of the New York Times and you've got fiduciary responsibilities...[inaudible comments]  it's the dilemma of the news business."
The tradeoff made by the Times with its latest move is echoed by this Reuters report:
News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said on Tuesday that he was leaning toward making online Wall Street Journal free, but had made no decision yet. [....]

Murdoch said making the site, which currently charges a annual subscription fee of $99, freely available online would help boost viewership -- and revenue -- globally.

"'If you make it free, it will hurt the paper' -- I don't think so," he told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia media conference in New York.

He added: "That looks the way we're going."

Murdoch's comments came a day after the New York Times Co said it would end its paid TimesSelect service to attract more online ads.
I take both announcements as indicators that the dead tree model of journalism is dying faster than most observers (but not me) predicted.

In order to make free web dissemination business model work well, however,  newspapers will have to charge more for web advertising and find more ways to include ads in their content. At the moment, it is hard to actually earn advertising revenue from the web which compares with printed page revenue. One major problem is that media buyers at advertising agencies do not yet have comparable tools to use in evaluating web advertising as those developed for older media. Inertia is also an issue.

Now that two major newspaper companies are throwing their lot in with advertising-supported web publication strategies, the trend toward spending a bigger slice of advertising budgets on the web will accelerate. Ironically, this trend will also benefit start-up new media ventures, including American Thinker.

Everyone wins.
Well, except for blue collar press workers like those the Times is laying off in Edison, NJ and Flushing, NY. I am certain the bleeding hearts at the Times are very concerned.