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Quick Questions: TimesSelect

The New York Times' subscription-only content package launches today. But will it work?

- September 19, 2005

tslogo.gifToday, the New York Times introduces TimesSelect, a subscription-only online package that includes access to certain New York Times columnists and web-based add-on features. mb's David Hirschman talks to Diane McNulty, Group Director of Community Affairs and Media Relations about TimesSelect:

Why has it taken so long for the Times to start charging for content? Why start now? Are there any plans to eventually make the entire paper "select," like the Wall Street Journal does?

The New York Times on the Web always has had some paid sections, including the crossword puzzle, News Tracker, and our archives. In fact, when we first launched, users overseas were required to pay a fee for access. TimesSelect represents the next phase in the evolution of our digital strategy. It creates for our readers exceptional value through access to The Times's vast archives, something our readers have long requested, exclusive online access to the distinctive voices of our Op-Ed, Business, Sports and Metro columnists, new organizational tools, early notification of news and features. TimesSelect brings readers closer to the journalists and journalism of The New York Times. In a changed (and changing) media environment, TimesSelect will provide a new source of revenue that will enable us to continue to provide the brand of quality journalism our readers have come to expect. Ninety-seven percent of NYTimes.com will remain freely accessible. We have no plans to change that. And, again, New York Times home delivery subscribers can register for TimesSelect for free.

Once people have paid for the articles within TimesSelect, will links be available for use by bloggers? Are these articles (the opinions specifically) being taken behind the pay-for curtain in order to keep blogs from linking to them?

The annual fee of $49.95., or monthly fee of $7.95, will give subscribers free run of the site. Members will have access to the above mentioned columns of The Times and the International Herald Tribune, free access to 100 articles per month from the newspaper's archives ultimately dating back to 1851, new organizational tools and early notification of upcoming articles. TimesSelect subscribers can create or view hyperlinks to the full text of the columns. Non-subscribers will see a brief summary of the column. We expect to have an affiliate program in place by the end of the year that will provide incentives for bloggers and others who generate new subscriptions via a TimesSelect advertising link on their site.

Regarding the affiliate program there are two key points. One, the links in the affiliate program will be clearly marked as advertisements—they will be a combination of text links and banner ads on a blogger's site. Two, It is not our intention to have the bloggers use RSS feeds or to discuss our content as a way to promote the TimesSelect affiliate program.

With all of the free content available on the internet, why should readers pay for Times content; won't readers simply find another outlet for the same kinds of opinions? If Maureen Dowd costs $1 (or a subscription), and some smart blogger with a similar bent costs nothing, why should readers pay?

For more than 150 years, The New York Times has offered its readers quality journalism. A strong part of our editorial offering has and will continue to be our columnists who are some of the most influential voices writing today. We think our readers will want to benefit from the insightful contributions our columnists make to the public discourse on the issues of the day.

David S. Hirschman is the news editor of mediabistro.com.

Quick Question Follow-up: Would you pay for TimesSelect? Why or why not? Send your responses to letters@mediabistro.com, and find out on Wednesday what readers are saying.



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