Journalistic "New Coke"


That's Kevin Drum's characterization of the New York Times' decision to put its op-ed columnists behind a subscription firewall come September. William Strunk once said that to air one's views gratuitiously is to suggest that the demand for them is brisk. Well, in our age of blog, there's a lot of gratuitous airing, and one can't help but suspect that—if the laws of supply and demand hold—that makes it a less-than-propitious time to start trying to charge for 800-word opinion squibs. That's especially the case because there are network effects involved in writing of that sort: Part of the value of reading, say, Paul Krugman or Tom Friedman is that you expect other people to be reading them, and you want to be prepared for what folks are going to be chattering about over drinks after work (well, in D.C. anyway) or around the blogs. Attenuating that discussion by raising barriers to open linking could create a kind of negative feedback loop—and maybe grant Maureen Dowd the irrelevance she so richly deserves.


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  1. Maybe I’m paranoid, but it seems to me that this is a move to insulate the times from criticism by bloggers – most of whom won’t subscribe and won’t buy a hard copy.

    It’s like they think that less criticism necessarily = more credibility.

  2. Hmph.

    They must have gotten tired of everyone and their pet monkey using BugMeNot to view their content without submitting user info.

    It seems to me that the mentality of The Times is nothing short of TwenCen.

  3. You mean I could PAY to read Krugman? That’s … something.

  4. I don’t know, Jason; I’ve thought about sending him a check above what I paid for “The Accidental Theorist” – he certainly has his off days, but he’s been on point again lately.

  5. One can only hope that this is really a subtle plan to create a national watch-list of people who would pay to read Maureen Dowd, to be used in the future when the herd needs to be culled.

  6. “Congratulations! You have now completed your subscription to the NYT Editorial page, and have been selected to participate in the up-and-coming Expendable Citizen relocation program!”

  7. This is just another strategic move in the NYT’s attempt to become the anti-Wall Street Journal.

  8. Now if we could just figure out how to convince Rush Limbaugh to go behind a firewall somewhere…

  9. [Pop]
    That’s the sound of the cork popping off the champagne bottles in the Washington Post’s editorial room.

  10. The NYT has an editorial??? I thought the whole paper was one big opinion piece!

  11. It was only a matter of time before they found a way to charge for online stuff. They don’t even have any real advertising on it now, so even if online readership decreases it’s not like they’re losing anything. And with the increase in demand (and supply) for online opinions, they figure they’ll make some good money here.

    It will do you well to remember the arrogance of the NYT here. It’s certainly true that their OP/ED writers carry a gravitas that the general blogger doesn’t, and putting a price tag on them only completes their separation from the “muck”. This will probably be more successful for the NYT than one would think at first glance.

    Also, a subcription to the Onion only costs $30 and you get extra content and access to the archives. I know where I’d spend my money.

  12. “From now on, you’ve gotta pay!”

    (I understand that for some reason this cover upset some feminists…)

  13. Shouldn’t this be considered good news for everyone? Conservatives now have a good excuse not to read Krugman or Rich or Dowd, liberals not to read Tierney or Brooks. And of course *everyone* can skip Tom Friedman…

  14. The Anniston (Ala.) Star charges for access to its web site, with the exception of a select few online features. One of those exceptions is editor Brandy Ayers’ column, which he believes the entire world should read but, obviously, doesn’t believe anyone will pay to read. (Having read it, I can say he is wrong about the former and right about the latter.)

  15. For now, you can go to to read all of Krugman’s work (and then some).

    While I disagree with the NY Times decision, I sympathize with Julian’s hope that Dowd will be marginalized. That is, I have no beef with her, but if she’s going to have her impact stilted, that means Bob fucking Herbert will TRULY be irrelevant.

    That dumb bastard doesn’t know how to write a column unless the words “Abu”, “Ghraib”, “torture”, or “I suck tremendous balls at writing op-eds since all I ever write about is torture which no one cares about anymore” appears in the actual opinion piece.

  16. As long as the editorial teases are free, I’m happy.

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