Friday, August 10, 2007

Sign of The Times?

The New York Post, ever vigilant to the goings-on at its cross-town rival, the New York Times, reports that the Times is giving up on its two-year-old TimesSelect service, in which it charged a fee to online readers for access to its Op-Ed columnists and other content, such as editorials and its archives.

This arrangement deprived readers who went to the daily and Sunday Times on the Web for news stories of the pleasure of reading such columnists as Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Thomas L. Friedman, David Brooks and other opinion-givers. Only those who were willing to pay $7.95 a month, or $49.95 a year, had access to these writers.

Although the announcement hasn’t been made officially, the return to totally free Times content on the Internet awaits the resolution of software issues associated with making the switch from pay-per-view, the Post reported, citing an unidentified source.

If it happens, this is good news! Not having free access to Times’ editorials and columnists was like inviting readers to a meal, but not serving the dessert and coffee. The meal was, if anything, incomplete.

The reason for the Times giving up on TimesSelect, according to the Post, appears to have less to do with internal grumbling — some columnists were unhappy with the arrangement, complaining that it limited their Web readership — than with economics. The number of paid TimesSelect subscribers dropped to just over 221,000 in June, from more than 224,000 in April, the Post said.

-PAUL D. SAMUEL, Daily Record Associate Editor

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