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Monday, September 19, 2005

TimesSelect: a missed opportunity for newspaper partnerships

Good morning TimesSelect seems to say Steve Outing in a recent column of Editor & Publisher.

Regarding the new paid service from The New York Times providing exclusive online access to Op-Ed columnists, the NYT archives and some web tools, he considers that "the hybrid online publishing model is a good one (keep most of the news Web site free, but build a suite of premium services worth paying for)".

Nevertheless, I consider an opportunity was missed in the struggle for the newspaper industry to reinvent a new business model. And I hope this missed opportunity will serve as a lesson in other countries as in the US.

What's the issue? It seems rather clever that the New York Times finally choose to introduce new "pay" service. But this shift would have a totally different significance if other national newspapers - such as the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and why not USA Today - did the same thing at the same rate at the same moment.

Immediately more than 50% of all op-ed pages produced in America would be available behind paywalls and op-ed page addicted readers - and many bloggers using these sections as punching balls - would have to choose: to pay or not to pay, to be an insider or a news refugee!

The Times decision to make its own and lonely policy is risky: not because web editors and bloggers will copy and paste the columns some will disseminate, but because a majority of them will ignore the Times columnists and will find their "honey" in other sources.

Another strategy would have been to discuss with other publishers and to define a common strategy to create a more powerful leverage toward readers. The problem is that every newspaper thinks it is able to escape the circulation decline by itself. But this is a wrong attitude: newspapers need to talk together and to define common paywalls. If not, every newspaper's paywall will be submerged one by one.

This mentality of working together is not at all "in the air" within the newspaper industry. But defeat after defeat, publishers and editors will be obliged to present a common front regarding pure online players: it is better to share revenues of a big cake - for instance all op-ed pages produced by some national newspapers sold in one package - than to go it alone!

Source: Editor & Publisher and former posting.

PS: in Spain, El Paisdid exactly the opposite than The New York Times: three years ago, they decided to become a paid site (with very few exceptions), but in June 2005, the Spanish newspaper was obliged to change its strategy and to again become a free website!

Posted by Bertrand Pecquerie on September 19, 2005 at 07:06 PM in a. Citizen journalism, m. Improving editorial quality, n. Online strategies, r. Revenues and business models | Permalink


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Newspapers cannot stave off the Internet. I don't necessarily think it is bloggers that will plunge the knife (although some of the very good Opinion bloggers will help feed the Op-Ed market.)

No - I think something akin to WikiNews is going to do it. Today, it is far less advanced than newspapers. But throw up enough paywalls?

Well I'd just point to what WikiPedia has to done to encyclopedia companies. It rather blows them away in not only scope of topics covers, but also accuracy as well.

Posted by: RKB at Sep 23, 2005 9:44:59 PM

Contrary to those who believe that TimesSelect will somehow lead readers of the mainstream press to the irrelevant ramblings of narcissistic blogs, I think the consequences will be far worse: people will just stop looking for news and opinions because of the hassle and cost and will drift away from following the news at all.

Posted by: Ron Thomas at Sep 21, 2005 8:04:54 PM

I don't know the ownership structure of the newspaper you mention, but unless these papers are owned by the same corporation wouldn't this be some kind of "price cooperation", i.e. some kind of anti-trust violation?

Posted by: JX at Sep 20, 2005 8:21:27 AM

Forgetting the anti-trust ramifications of this scheme for the moment ....

Having all the MSM op-ed pages go
commit circulation-suicide behind a paywall will only accelerate the growth and maturation of the blogosphere, and hasten the demise of the BigThoughtCo.'s.

Luckily, you MSM folks remain ignorant of network effect economics, and will continue on your fast freight train to extinction.


-- stan

Posted by: Stan Krute at Sep 20, 2005 6:03:05 AM

Unless I'm missing something, you're advocating a criminal conspiracy in violation of federal antitrust laws.

Do I have that right, or are newspapers - as they seem to believe - above the reach of the law?

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Posted by: Cecilia Jamasmie at Sep 19, 2005 8:16:20 PM