There have been stories recently that the NY Times (NYSE:NYT) might discontinue their subscription-based offering TimesSelect. Part of the reason is that authors in the paper, especially in the OpEd section, don’t want there to be a gate between their content and the world. As a writer, you want as many people as possible to read your work, it’s great if they pay but you generally favor readership over dollars.
The problem with TimesSelect and similar offerings from other papers is that they are annoying for the readers and subscribers. Some content is free, others require a login. I’m a subscriber but sometimes my computer seems to forget how to login automatically and if the article isn’t that important I’m too busy to go through the whole "retrieve password" exercise.
One would completely understand if the Times decided to scrap TimesSelect, but it begs the question: if they do, what then? We could write 20 pages here but instead suggest one option for the Times. When you stay at a resort you often get a simple short version of the Times [including the crossword] on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. I absolutely love it.
If I lived full time in NY I’d subscribe to the Sunday Times but not the rest. We’re all too busy to sit down with the papers and page through them. It’s certainly all online today. However this packaging, combined with good editorial oversight, would be a winner. I’d happily pay some amount per year for a 12 page PDF file of the NYTimes with just what I need to know. No advertising.
Display advertising online is now out of control. We have had to totally block and stop reading sites like Forbes.com, eWeek and ZDnet. The ads are overwhelming. You actually have to squint to see any of the text you are hoping to read.
Other publications, including the Financial Times, Nature and probably all of them with a news focus, need to find a way to deliver a nicely packaged version of the news to users that they would pay for. The efforts so far by the NYT and Dow Jones are pathetic. If the NYT just woke up and did something that adds value rather than just restricting access to random pieces of content they might be able to build a business out of it.