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New York Times to Charge for Reading Op-Ed Writers

The New York Times has announced it will begin charging online readers to access its opinion writers and other columnists in September.

The paper will charge $49.95 per year for TimesSelect, a service that gives readers online access to the work of a few select writers -- columnists on the Op-Ed page as well as in other sections of the paper, including Business, Sports, and Metro. TimesSelect subscribers will also receive unlimited access to the Times' archives (most of the articles fall into the archives after one week online) and to the paper's NewsTracker service.

TalkLeft joins Daily Kos in response:

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, the proprietor of the popular left-wing blog Daily Kos, said that come September, he'll stop linking to the Times Op-Ed pages. "I think this is the best way they can become irrelevant," said Moulitsas. "If my readers can't read it, why would I link to it? The key to blogging is that readers can look at the source material and make up their own minds." Moulitsas is a fan of Krugman's columns, but he said that he would not personally pay for the subscription service. "I don't think it's worth $50," he said. "There's way too much content out there for me to pay for any of it."

This is an issue on which all sides of the blogosphere seem to agree:

Blogger Andrew Sullivan greeted the Times' news with this unhappy headline: "The NYT Withdraws From the Blogosphere." "The great gift that the New York Times gives the world is free access to its articles, opinion-journalists, and stories," Sullivan wrote. But "by sectioning off their op-ed columnists and best writers, they are cutting them off from the life-blood of today's political debate: the free blogosphere. Inevitably, fewer people will link to them; fewer will read them; their influence will wane faster than it has already. The blog is already becoming a rival to the dated op-ed column format as a means of communicating opinion journalism. My bet is that the NYT's retrogressive move will only fasten the decline of op-ed columnists' influence."

Update: Matt Yglesias chimes in:

nobody's going to pay hard earned money to read op-ed columns in an era when there's way more free political commentary available every day than anybody could possibly read. Indeed, I suspect this will just be the first step in a process that leads to the total elimination of the op-ed page as we understand it. In a blogging world, the comparative advantage of a profit making newspaper enterprise is clearly its ability to undertake reporting projects that require resources and expertise that can't be mobilized more-or-less for free by people working in their spare time.

One of Matt's commenters notes:

Why should I pay to see NYTimes columnists in their natural habitat, when my local paper pays their syndicate to re-print the columns the next day? And if I wait a day later, I can pick up yesterday's paper on a bus station bench for no money at all.

Update: Kevin Drum is going to stop linking to them now.

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  • Fifty Bucks?? To read an occasionally good Op-Ed? I'd rather solicit opinions on the bus on the way home.

    Re: New York Times to Charge for Reading Op-Ed Wri (none / 0) (#2)
    by expertlaw on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:08 PM EST
    This is rare in the U.S., perhaps exclusive among significant newspapers to the WSJ and soon the Times, but not uncommon overseas. I think it has more to do with trying to (a) boost print circulation, and (b) protect syndication fees for NYT columnists, than it has to do with generating direct income from the sale of "online editorial" accounts. I doubt that editorials generate much advertising income, save perhaps if the NYTimes has CPM advertisers on those pages; and they surely consume a lot of bandwidth.

    Will NYT drop their popup ads?

    I don't care. NYT is high on my list of things I can do without. Want opinions? Try this, instead.

    Wait, Salon is lamenting about paying for opinion content. Then, not so subtely, gives 2 words of the piece for free, then shoves out the proverbial donation basket to read the rest of the article, no more than halfway down the webpage. You can't make this crap up.

    Re: New York Times to Charge for Reading Op-Ed Wri (none / 0) (#6)
    by MikeDitto on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:09 PM EST
    A lot of people already avoid links to the Times because they require registration. They might as well save some bucks and take their web site offline, because they obviously don't want any readers.

    I work in a library so I can read the op/ed page for free. Not that there is ever anything that is just so riveting I can't go a day without reading it. Krugman and one other op/ed writer(can't remember his name right now, still dealing with a bout of insomnia) are really the only ones worth even looking at in the NYT. I do think this is going to be a costly move on their part; though who knows, maybe it will in the short run boost revenue.

    Re: New York Times to Charge for Reading Op-Ed Wri (none / 0) (#9)
    by skippybkroo on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:10 PM EST
    we at skippy international think this is simply a brilliant idea. introducing skippy select.

    Re: New York Times to Charge for Reading Op-Ed Wri (none / 0) (#10)
    by ppjakajim on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 12:59:12 PM EST
    Pete G - Nice insight. I wonder what will happen when someone with a subscription references/links and article that someone else can't access? My guess is the have nots will dismiss the haves "evidence," and the result will be more division, more hardlines.