Everyone wondered if the New York Times would be able to pull off their Times Select premium news experiment. Despite projections of up to $10 Million in annual subscription revenues as of Wednesday morning most areas of nytimes.com will be free of charge. This is excellent news for bloggers who will now be able to point to articles on the site and know their readers will be able to follow their references with our having to pay a subscription fee.
Back when Times Select launched almost two years ago there was talk of driving subscriptions via an affiliate program. I guess that never really took off and now Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of nytimes.com admits that, “What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google and Yahoo,”
It’s widely known that more traffic comes into the site via search engine links and blog referrals than via the front door and if you’re not converting successfully via these entry points then you’re better off monetizing the traffic via advertising.
It’ll be interesting to see if this puts pressure on wsj.com to open up as Rupert Murdoch, their new owner, has hinted.
I still think that the optimal combination of free vs. premium is the one that I outlined two years ago when Times Select launched.
Restricting access during the period when these pieces are the most valuable will drive subscriptions to TimesSelect. It makes less sense to keep these pieces under lock and key throughout the time when people are mildly curious to see what all the fuss is about and have the time to sample a frequently referenced article without having to commit to an annual subscription. I would prefer to see the program re-jigged so that TimesSelect members get first dibs on grokking the perspective of the day but after 48 hours the doors are open for any and all up until the 3 month mark when they drop back to a view which restricts non-subscribers to only the first few paragraphs.
Open access to popular pieces for a three month period would help move low cost advertising inventory and allow for the fence-sitters to properly experience the quality of the Times’ news stream should they later decide they want to get access to this stuff prior the 48 hour embargo for non-subscribers.
Call it Kennedy’s Rolling Window of news & perspective. The cheap seats only let you see what’s directly in front of the window while subscribers get to see not only what’s coming down the pike but also dig back and review what’s gone by.