'NYT' Not Confirming End of TimesSelect Pay Status -- But Borrell Thinks They Should

By: E&P Staff Despite an alleged scoop in the New York Post today, The New York Times is not confirming -- or for that matter, denying -- that it will end the pay provision for its closely-watched TimesSelect service.

New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis declined to confirm or deny that TimesSelect was being yanked, but did point out that it has steadily grown since it launched in September 2005.

Still, she would not say what the future of TimesSelect would be: ?We continue to evaluate the best approach for NYTimes.com.? When asked if the service would be altered in any way, she said ?that I can?t answer. We are certainly doing a lot to make it better.?

The Post had reported: "After much internal debate, Times executives -- including publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. -- made the decision to end the subscription-only TimesSelect service but have yet to make an official announcement, according to a source briefed on the matter."

Ever since The New York Times put its columnists and some archived material behind a pay wall with the introduction of TimesSelect, there has been constant speculation that it was a doomed strategy.

Free up the material (which was once free) and theory is that the Times can sit back and watch the flow of online advertising dollars.

Gordon Borrell CEO of Borrell Associates thinks it would be a good idea for Times executive to scrap the subscription model to access part of its Web site. The way he sees it, TimesSelect is different from say, The Wall Street Journal, which also charges subscribers for access to certain material.

"The New York Times is a strong and respected brand however the type of content they are writing about [in columns] is available everywhere," Borrell explains. "Their niche is strong writing and this is not a strong enough niche to charge readers for."

By comparison, Borrell's firm did an analysis of the wsj.com and found after some skepticism, that hybrid model really works. Borrell estimates that the Journal generates about $75 million in subscription fees and about $25 million for advertising on the paid site. He notes that people are willing to pay for the content because it really can't be found anywhere else.

For June, the Times said that it currently had approximately 763,000 subscribers with about 60% receiving TimesSelect as a benefit of their home-delivery subscriptions, 29% receiving it from online-only subscriptions and 11% receiving it free as college students and educators.

In 2006, the company reported $9.9 million in revenue from TimesSelect subscriptions.


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