‘NYT’ To End Pay Policy on Web Site — Notes New ‘Landscape’

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By: E&P Staff

It had been rumored for weeks, but became official tonight with the posting on an article on The New York Times online site: The paper is ending its practice of walling off part of its offerings in a pay channel, TimesSelect.

The shift to fully free will become effective at midnight Tuesday night. The Times online archives will also go free.

The article said this is “reflecting a growing view in the industry that subscription fees cannot outweigh the potential ad revenue from increased traffic on a free site.”

Questioned recently about this, a Times spokeswoman told E&P’s Joe Strupp only that the company was always looking for ways to improve its site and its traffic.

The article relates: “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 its columnists? work and to the newspaper?s archives. TimesSelect has been free to print subscribers to The Times, and to some students and educators….

“The newspaper said the TimesSelect project had met expectations, drawing 227,000 paying subscribers ? out of 787,000 over all ? and generating about $10 million a year in revenue. ‘But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,’ said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site, NYTimes.com.

“When the project was being designed, ‘it was a time when it was all about people coming to our brand because they?re typing in NYTimes.com,’ she said. ‘What wasn?t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others.'”

Speculation has held that such a move might have been sparked by Rupert Murdoch musing that he might make the The Wall Street Journal site go free.

Late Monday, the Times carried a Letter to Readers on its site. It follows.

Effective Sept. 19, we are ending TimesSelect. All of our online readers will now be able to read Times columnists, access our archives back to 1987 and enjoy many other TimesSelect features that have been added over the last two years ? free.

If you are a paying TimesSelect subscriber, you will receive a prorated refund. We will send you an e-mail on Wednesday, Sept. 19 with full details.

Why the change?

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. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion ? as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.

We welcome all online readers to enjoy the popular and powerful voices that have defined Times commentary ? Maureen Dowd, Thomas L. Friedman, Frank Rich, Gail Collins, Paul Krugman, David Brooks, Bob Herbert and Nicholas D. Kristof. And we invite them to become acquainted with our exclusive online journalism ? columns by Stanley Fish, Maira Kalman, Dick Cavett and Judith Warner; the Opinionator blog; and guest forums by scientists, musicians and soldiers on the frontlines in Iraq. All this will now reach a broader audience in the United States and around the world.

This month we mark the 156th anniversary of the first issue of The New York Times. Our long, distinguished history is rooted in a commitment to innovation, experimentation and constant change. All three themes were plainly evident in the skillful execution of TimesSelect; they will be on full display as NYTimes.com becomes entirely open.


Vivian Schiller
Senior Vice President & General Manager

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