By: Joe Strupp
About 156,000 people have signed up and paid a special online fee to read The New York Times’ columnists since the paper launched its TimesSelect service four months ago, the paper reported Tuesday. Those readers are among a total of 390,000 who have signed up for the Web feature, which includes print subscribers who have free access to the online columns, but must register.
“We’ve always said that if we could get a couple of hundred thousand in the first year, that would be good,” said Len Apcar, editor in chief of NYTimes.com, the paper’s Web site, which launched the service Sept. 19. “That’s very good for January.”
Online-only subscribers pay $7.95 per month and $49.95 per year. When the paper previously released subscriber figures, in October and December, it indicated about half of those signing up were paying only for the Web. The latest data shows about 40% are web-only subscribers.
The service requires a fee for Web access to all news, sports, business and Op-Ed columnists. It also provides extra services such as online journals by some columnists, video presentations, and access to the paper’s online archives.
Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty called the latest data a positive sign. “It is a little bit ahead of what we thought [would happen by now],” she said. “People who try it seem to like it.” She said none of the subscriber data includes those who sign up for the 14-day free trial period, then cancel.
Along with the latest information, the paper also announced a new 50% discount offer for college students and faculty that allows them to sign up for online-only access for $24.95 per year. McNulty said the discount is not a reaction to the latest subscriber numbers, but an offer that had been planned from the beginning. She said the paper provides a similar discount for print subscribers.
“This was always part of the second phase of the program,” she said. “We needed to get the mechanics of it out of the way first. There are a lot of benefits for students and I imagine it will get a lot of interest.”
McNulty said there was no change to one controversial element of TimesSelect, which requires those wishing to e-mail the Op-Ed columnists to sign-up for the service. The limitation had drawn complaints from editors at several newspapers nationwide who run the columns and were recently told by the Times not to publish their e-mail addresses.