NYTimes.com To Launch Premium Service Next Monday: Will Fans Pay for Famed Columnists?

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By: Jay DeFoore

Come Monday, Sept. 19, fans of New York Times columnists Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and David Brooks will have to break out their credit cards. Sept. 19 is the launch date of TimesSelect, a new subscription service designed to diversify the newspaper’s revenue stream beyond traditional Web site advertising.

The popular Op-Ed columnists are the main selling point behind the $49.95 a year subscription. (The service will be free for the paper’s home delivery subscribers). The paper’s news, features, editorials, and analysis will remain free, as will interactive graphics, multimedia, and video.

TimesSelect subscribers will also have the ability to access up to 100 articles a month from the Times’s 25-year digital archive. To sweeten the pot even further, the Times is offering a number of new services, including the ability to save and organize articles in a personal “Times File,” an e-mail alert service, and early access to certain Sunday sections.

In an editor’s letter posted Monday, NYTimes.com Editor Len Apcar called TimesSelect “an important step in the development of The New York Times.”

But the move is not without its risks. The Times is likely to see a drop-off in page views, which advertisers covet, at least initially. But if successful, the move could embolden other publishers to begin experimenting with limited online subscription models.

An overview of TimesSelect offerings is available here.

Early response in the blogosphere was not positive. One popular blogger, John Aravosis at Americablog, predicted what many fans of Times’ columnist might do: “People will still get copies of the articles, they’ll still email them around the Net, some Web sites will still republish the entire articles illegally, and we’ll end up linking to those sites instead of the New York Times (it ain’t illegal to link).”

He added, commenting on “free” falling: “If the Times’ idea catches on, this really could be the beginning of the end of the current state of Internet news.”

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