Rejecting TimesSelect, Embracing the MLB Playoffs

The decision by the New York Times to start charging for some of its online content — specifically, its op-ed writers — has generated surprisingly little heat over the last week, but it looks like the pushback has finally begun. Slate’s Mickey Kaus points out this morning the intriguing fact that “The top seven searches on Technorati are all searches for blocked-off New York Times columns. Why? Locked-out readers are looking for bootleg copies … and finding them, mostly. … P.S.: Does the NYT have an exit strategy? If they pull the plug on TimesSelect, do they have to give all the sucke … I mean, customers who signed up their $49.95 back? …”

At Jay Rosen’s Press Think, TimesSelect has been the topic du jour for six days running, and Rosen’s own initial observations had, at last count, drawn 122 comments, the majority of which question the sanity and/or the business savvy of the Times’ new policy.

Just One Minute isn’t so hot for the new Times policy, either, dubbing it “TimesReject” and writing that “Observers continue to puzzle over the Times decision to kill the buzz generated by their top columnists by hiding them behind the TimesReject barricade. A hint to the strategy was provided by Martin Nisenholtz, president of New York Times Digital. Mr. Nisenholtz informed E&P that, for regular Times readers, the buzz is everything, and that access to the Time columnists would be ‘the equivalent to … a few martinis.’”

Future of the Book takes the longer view, noting in its sober, reasoned analysis (something we’re not that used to seeing in the blogosphere):

You can’t fault the Times for trying to find a new business model for the Web, but they seem to be doing themselves more harm than good with TimesSelect … The Wall Street Journal is an exclusive paper, so offering it over the Web as a pay subscription service actually increases its cachet. The Times is a different sort of paper — it has a general audience and is read the world over. Its ubiquity, its availability over the Web, is part of its identity.

Moroever, the Times is seriously overvaluing its columnists, or worse, de-valuing them by placing them behind a pay wall. If I were Tierney or Kristof or Dowd, I would be furious. It makes them look like preened show dogs when everyone else is duking it out in the commons for all to read. Seems like a one-way ticket to irrelevance. Plus, soon they’re going to have to take part in all sorts of online chats and seminars with Select subscribers — I bet they’ll really start to chafe then.

Speaking of chafing, former FEMA director Michael Brown most surely must have “his undies in a bundle” right about now, as Letters from Bobby predicts. During his Congressional testimony yesterday, he “just about blamed everyone but Janet Jackson and her partially exposed breast for the organization’s mistakes,” Bobby says.

Finally, it’s the last week of baseball season, and there’s no way we can conclude today’s blog report without commenting on the three-way tie between the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians for two spots in the postseason. (We tend to lean toward the American League here at CJR Daily World Headquarters). Sports blog Deadspin is ready and “primed for a final five days of rather intense pre-playoff madness,” during which “everyone [is] just kind of freaking out. We were at a very crowded bar last night full of very loud Red Sox fans, and we were reminded just how exhausting the next three-four weeks are going to be. (By the time the World Series happened last year, we were begging for a day off, away from baseball. Playoffs just kill us every year, man.) For everyone in the American League not from Anaheim, this is all starting a week early. Expect employees to be showing up an hour or so late, beginning, oh, now.”

Paul McLeary

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.