According to The New York Post, New York Times executives – including publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. – made the decision to end the paper’s subscription-only TimesSelect service.
While other online publications were abandoning subscriptions, the Times took the opposite approach in 2005 and began charging for access to well-known writers, including Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and Thomas L. Friedman.
The decision, which also walled off access to archives and other content, was controversial almost from the start, with some of the paper’s own columnists complaining that it limited their Web readership.
The number of Web-only subscribers who pay $7.95 a month or $49.95 a year fell to just over 221,000 in June, down from more than 224,000 in April.
Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 weighs in on the development:
The new economics of media make charging for content nearly impossible because there is always someone else producing similar content for free — even if the free content isn’t “as good as” the paid content by some meaningful metric, it doesn’t matter because there’s so much content of at least proximate quality that the paid content provider has virtually no pricing power. As smart, talented, and insightful as the New York Times columnists behind the paid wall are, the are too many other smart, talented, insightful commentators publishing their thoughts on the web for free.