Tuesday, May 17, 2005

New York Times

To raise revenue, the Times has decided to create a system where the news will continue to be free on their website, but you'll have to pay $50 to get the archives and any of their opinion pages.

I think that's dumb. It's not what I'd pay for. The price is too high, and people will tell me what any interesting opinion pieces say. I have access to Nexis, so I don't care about the archives. This service would be worth $5/year, maybe $10.

Here's what I'd pay for, not $50, but maybe $20-$30. Make the archives free for 1 or 2 years back, then keep charging for really old stuff. That applies to opinion, reviews, everything. But it should take a week for material to enter those free archives. If you want the news as it's happening, you pay for the news. I don't read the Times for old news, I read it for new news. So make me pay for it. Make me pay to be the best informed person around. Fine. But once it's old news, it isn't special.

I don't care about Michael Jackson, but if I hear someone commenting that some event really shifted the Jackson case, I may want to look back at the reporting of that crucial event. I may want to look at the development of a story, which means looking at the Times coverage of (say) the Kansas controversy, to see how the strategy or language has changed. That should be free.

If I want to know what's happening today, make me pay. After a week, the buzz has died down, whether it's an opinion piece or a news story. Let people look for free, but make them pay to be in the vanguard. For God's sake, not $50/year. It isn't worth it.

Google News and its alert service make breaking news available for free, which should force the Times to really produce great new stories, and they just haven't been doing it. Their news coverage of the Kansas controversy has been worse than the Washington Post's. Their coverage of politics hasn't been hard hitting, they were slow to pick up on the Blair memo (which showed that the Iraq war was a done deal months before the public knew it was coming), and their opinion pages are hit-or-miss, and going downhill since Tierney was added. I like Frank Rich, and I'll miss Paul Krugman, but I haven't been reading the others anyway. It's not like there's some difficulty in finding news analysis and opinion journalism.