The blogosphere, writes Greg Newton, has in recent weeks filled with fulminations on the decision by The New York Times to start whacking on-line readers $49.95 a year ($39.95 if you get your money down before Sept. 18) for access to selected Op-Ed and news columnists and various other services that have, until now, been free.
I paid up today, mostly because the service offers The Archive. But not before saving myself $3.95 – the current charge for reading a single article more than a week old – by tracking down the piece I wanted in The Lakeland Ledger, a New York Times newspaper. Just how long this workaround works remains to be seen, but it’s been out there for a while, and does for most of the business news stories I’ve wanted to find.
I believe that The Times’ move to start charging for its on-line content is long overdue. As a long time, if small-time, publishing executive, I never quite ‘got’ why the arrival of the Internet meant that dead-tree media outlets were suddenly expected to start giving away the family jewels. Especially as hundreds, if not thousands, of ‘newsletter’ and ‘web’ businesses suddenly emerged, charging subscriptions for emails or selling ads on sites that consist of nothing but links to ‘free’ news; that, to me, crossed the line from free-riding to free-loading.
And while I’m on that point, am I the only one to have noticed the close correlation between those forever ranting about the impending death of the newspaper and the fulminators, with free-loader Matt Drudge being among the most prominent?
That said, I’m slightly resentful. Because I buy my Times every day - except Sunday, because life's too short and trees too precious - at the corner newsstand, I have to spring for $40, while home subscribers get ‘Times Select’ free. Home delivery sucks; when the paper does turn up, it rarely does so before 7 am, or near enough to mid-morning by my standards. And those promises to get the replacement copy delivered by 9am? Well, they don't say which day.
So I get my fill of Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert and Tom Friedman and the other wishy-washy liberals, along with the black gunk all over my fingers and some exercise. But what finally extracted the dusty $40 from the depths of my wallet was access to The Archive; I’ve long been frustrated at running into the abstract and the little “Stick ‘em up, that’ll be $3.95