jump to navigation

Failed TimesSelect subscription service suggests that the NY Times lacks the business judgment it takes to succeed online 9/18/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
trackback

Before we conclude that no news outlet will ever be able to charge online subscription fees because the vaunted NY Times has failed (see Mathew Ingram), let’s engage in a little heresy. What if the people at the Times are really not the smartest people in the world as we are led to believe, and even lack some basic knowledge taught in Economics 101? This explanation seems as good as any, given how utterly foolish the idea of TimesSelect was in the first place.

As can be easily seen on the Times’ own web site (link hopefully still here), all TimesSelect was really about was requiring a subscription fee to read columns by a handful of pretty mediocre, center-left, non-topic experts like Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Paul Krugman. Why would anyone want to pay for this when so much similar material is already available in syndicated columns appearing in virtually every U.S. paper, as well as on the web? Based upon the laws of supply and demand, if the Times wanted to offer content sufficiently valuable to justify a fee, they might have considered something in much shorter supply. Like columns that take any position other than center-left. Or those written by real topic experts, not topic amateurs who happen to write well.

Fact is, for decades the Times has fallen into an enormous competitive disadvantage by not having the advantage of needing to be competitive. Protected by the anti-competitive AP network, their fortuitous presence in the nation’s center of finance, and the 1-3 paper per town economics of newspapers, they have enjoyed unearned success that is now coming to an end. The Internet has placed them in a new, highly competitive marketplace, and Rupert Murdoch has entered as their new, battle-hardened competitor. The TimesSelect misstep offers a glimpse of just how woefully unprepared they are.

Comments»

1. Walter Abbott - 9/19/07

“…all TimesSelect was really about was requiring a subscription fee to read columns by a handful of pretty mediocre, center-left, non-topic experts like Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Paul Krugman.”

Who?

2. strom - 9/19/07

Well, there is nothing wrong with paying for reading well written columns, even if they are by “non-topic experts” but Times Select had lots of other structural and computing issues that had nothing to do with journalism or newspapers: and the real economics lesson here is that if you put up a gate on your site, you will reduce traffic, and the 2007 era Web is all about bringing as much traffic to your site as you can. They still have a screwy system to access their archives, and those of us who still write for the Times and would like to link to our articles, at least now we should have a dependable way to bring people to the right place without having to monkey around with the URLs.

3. Steve Boriss - 9/19/07

Strom, I agree that there is “nothing wrong” with paying for reading well-written columns, but I’d also suggest that if you are going to charge a fee, you must hit a higher standard — content that is in particularly high demand and short supply to a sufficiently large audience given how much material is now available for free. RE: archives, while everything you are saying is probably true, I think this is another area where the demand-side is questionable. After all, the product people most want is “news” not “olds”. Moreover, reliable old news is more the domain of historians than journalists.

4. Free means never having to say you’re sorry » mathewingram.com/work - 9/19/07

[…] Globe and Mail, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have seen a similar pattern. Steve Boriss argues that this could be because the NYT did it wrong, but I’m not […]

5. Free means never having to say you’re sorry » mathewingram.com/media - 9/19/07

[…] Globe and Mail, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have seen a similar pattern. Steve Boriss argues that this could be because the NYT did it wrong, but I’m not […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: