TimesSelect No Longer $elective

Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism.

You don’t need an online geologist to see that the online landscape hasn’t altered significantly since 2005. The quotation above, from an announcement in today’s NYTimes.com Senior Vice President & General Manager Vivian Schiller, is simply her company’s attempt to make people think that charging for online access to some of its website was a good idea two years ago.

Charging for online access to the Opinion section and archives of The New York Times never made sense. The newspaper would have earned greater revenues through advertising if it had kept access to those sections free and it wouldn’t have aggravated a significant number of its online readers.

Instead, TimesSelect was an ego exercise forced on NYTimes.com by several senior executives of The New York Times Company. They never really understood the economics of new-media and insisted that the circulation revenue business model of printed edition publishing should work if shoveled online.

The exercise yielded some $10 million from 227,000 paying customers. That’s less than 2 percent of the site’s more than 13 million registered users. Its revenues are less than 5 percent of the site’s revenues from advertising on freely accessible webpages. Another half a million users were given free access to TimesSelect because they were either paying subscribers of the printed edition or students or academics. However, the exercise effectively prevented the more than 12 million registered users of the site from accessing the Opinions section or archives sections for two years. I call thatt a failure and hope those corporate executives have learned something from it.

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