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November 4, 2006
Security Alert -- NYT Firewall Breach!

Tom Maguire and Mickey Kaus have raised the alert that the firewall that keeps Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Bob Herbert, and Paul Krugman from afflicting Internet users will come down for several days, putting news readers in dire jeopardy of brain damage. The shields drop on November 6th and stay down for a week:

The New York Times announced today that it will invite all online visitors to experience TimesSelect content free of charge for one week. From November 6-12, every visitor to will have access to TimesSelect columns, blogs, video and other online exclusives that are normally available only to TimesSelect members. TimesSelect Free Access Week is presented exclusively by Philips as part of its "Sense and Simplicity" national marketing campaign.

"TimesSelect Free Access Week makes one of the Web's richest resources available to all," said Vivian Schiller, senior vice president, general manager, "From the influential opinion of our award-winning Op-Ed columnists, such as Maureen Dowd and Nicholas. D. Kristof, to online-only columnists, such as Maira Kalman and Judith Warner, TimesSelect provides a world of viewpoints that encourage dialogue on today's most pressing matters."

Translation: the Gray Lady can't sell TimesSelect, and they've realized it. At the time, I noted that the Times had settled on a business model that basically paid Internet visitors $50 not to read Dowd, Krugman, et al. I even suggested the motto, "TimesSelect: It's There for your Protection." Not only do they now have to do a one-week loss leader, they had to get Phillips Electronics to underwrite it.

What has TimesSelect done for the paper and its columnists? It made them much less relevant. Instead of having their columns dissected, criticized, and lionized by various bloggers and other pundits, they got ignored in favor of other columnists whose articles readers could easily access. This dynamic afflicted the vapid and the veritable alike in their stable of writers, and their declining influence has to have eroded the Times' market edge for opinion writers. This freebie is intended to convince people that their $50 buys them something unique, but the market has already proven that false.

And who came up with the timing on this offer? We're in the middle of a highly contested midterm election, and one would think that the folks at the Times might have some interesting things to say about it. (I know, I know ... work with me for a moment.) Wouldn't it make more sense to open the firewall for a week before the election, say from October 23-29, or October 30-November 6? I suspect that starting on November 7, political commentary will get significantly less attention than it has for the last couple of months. The marketing geniuses at the Times (and Phillips) apparently didn't consider that point.

At any rate, CQ readers have been warned. Beware of the TimesSelect pages and their stultifying effects next week. The mind you save may be your own.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 4, 2006 9:22 AM

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