According to a report in the New York Post, the New York Times has decided to drop the Times Select pay wall that keeps most of its opinion and editorial content, including its popular op-ed columnists, locked up for paying customers only. The Post says that publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has made the decision but the paper is trying to resolve various software issues before announcing it.
The story also notes that the Times has seen its subscription base for Times Select flatten (the Post report says the number dipped in June to 221,000 from 224,000 in April, but the Times has said those figures are wrong). As Henry Blodget points out at Silicon Alley Insider, it has been obvious for some time that Times Select was not growing and would never become a substantial part of the newspaper company’s business.
One could argue that getting people to pay $11-million is better than nothing, but $11 million in revenue for an operation the size of the NYT is a rounding error. It hardly seems worth it — especially when columnists like Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman (love them or hate them) are among the best draws the paper has. To keep them locked up for paying customers only instead of maximizing their traffic-drawing abilities seems increasingly absurd.
I hope the Post report is for real. Scott Karp has a more in-depth look at why Times Select makes no sense in an online media world. In other newspaper-related news, a new report says that online advertising revenue is expected to eclipse newspaper advertising revenue by 2011.