Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The NYT is Charging. Wow! I Don't Care. 

As usual, other people have beaten me to this story from Editor and Publisher. So I'm not only a poor speller, I'm slow. Sue me. But I just have to chime in on this one, for no other purpose than tossing in my hat in the game to Correctly Predict the Downfall of the Traditional Media. In this race we don't get ponies, but the sweet satisfaction of being right is almost enough.

I've been hearing about it for a while, but it seems the official date has been announced:

By Jay DeFoore

Published: September 13, 2005 1:40 PM ET

NEW YORK Come Monday, Sept. 19, fans of New York Times columnists Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and David Brooks will have to break out their credit cards. Sept. 19 is the launch date of TimesSelect, a new subscription service designed to diversify the newspaper's revenue stream beyond traditional Web site advertising.

The popular Op-Ed columnists are the main selling point behind the $49.95 a year subscription. (The service will be free for the paper's home delivery subscribers). The paper's news, features, editorials, and analysis will remain free, as will interactive graphics, multimedia, and video.

It's a strong possibility that the rest of the paper ("news, features, editorials, and analysis") could eventually become a service for fee as well. I'm no bean counter, but if they make any money off The Shrill One and MoDo in the first couple of quarters, I can see the pointy heads screaming to gate off the rest of the Grey Lady's linens.

The good folks at E&P, again beating me out of bed, also note that:

Early response in the blogosphere was not positive. One popular blogger, John Aravosis at Americablog, predicted what many fans of Times' columnist might do: "People will still get copies of the articles, they'll still email them around the Net, some Web sites will still republish the entire articles illegally, and we'll end up linking to those sites instead of the New York Times (it ain't illegal to link)."

He added, commenting on "free" falling: "If the Times' idea catches on, this really could be the beginning of the end of the current state of Internet news."

(And no, I'm not dating nor do I have any designs on John. Really.)

I'm going to violently disagree with everyone who can't imagine life without the Old Grey Ho on their virtual morning doorstep. For a couple of reasons, but mainly for the fact that only recently, for the first time in over three years I registered there, and then only because I was desperate to find a link to something I knew I'd read elsewhere but failed to bookmark (it proved a waste of time in the end).

I'm not arguing in favor of being an uninformed cretin. Nor do I believe that the NYT is a politically slanted, worthless, irresponsible, error-prone, rhetorical, unsubstantiated rumor mill and shill for the socially shallow and self-segregating elite who like to read their own words in a major publication every morning. But I do know that the good people on the Internet, people like you, dear reader, have beaten the NYT to the punch more times than I can count, to my direct benefit.

It's early and I'm new to this live-linky thing, but off the top of my head, I can make the following list of stories and info that the web has discussed and explored in depth before the NYT: Jeff Gannon, Bush's DD-214, Iraq's lack of WMD, the number of Iraqi dead, Hugo Chavez's epic struggle with someone who doesn't want him in office, why Hybrid is the greatest band of all time....that's probably enough for now. I could take up a dissertation's worth of space "proving" this point, but I'm going to be lazy this morning (I do have work for pay to do soon, forgive me) and just go with my gut that in the above cases, a search would easily locate a blog or indy source that dates coverage on these stories days or weeks before the Times.

Switching gears, everyone remembers Salon? I was really unhappy when Tom decided to take the Daou Report over there, while happy for him personally. Because like a lot of radical internet junkies, I simply won't be bothered with even a "free day pass" and whatever cookies and spyware go with that to read what I can get, albeit with slightly more effort, without such trickery elsewhere. I remember a recent discussion of Old-Timers from the Well, who sounded much like disillusioned Vietnam vets who'd left the VFW due to the influx of Bush loving morons from the AFL. What was once only to be found at Salon can now be found everywhere and for free, and as they Old Timers pointed out, paying for it was basically now only for the purpose of 'keeping out the riff raff.' One person noted that the Well currently has ~4K members, while Kos' boards get ~100K...daily.

There's also the issue of comment boards and rogue posting to consider. How many of us have come upon, yea, even posted ourselves, a story onto the boards which is later posted as a main page story on this or that blog? While it's always a concern (the recent SCOTUS case relating to blogs especially) that boards will become the "responsibility" of site authors, for now, it's still safe to cut and paste relevant sections from anywhere and let the rest of the world decide if they want to go to that site and pay, register, whatever. Free news on the internet isn't going to die until this changes. John's right to note that.

But I simply refuse to believe in something I think ultimately motivates the NTY and staff: that the Internet can be made to conform to "traditional" business models. They can tax it, regulate it, restrict it, redirect it, and otherwise make it a dangerous place for the conformist and citizen concerned with certain types of status, but what they can't do is stop that kid in Finland from posting what he wants. Just as they can't make me decide that paying for MoDo is a good use of my cash. Time and time again, information has actually lived up to the cliche "it wants to be free." While some free things have (almost) gone away, a motivated person can still skirt the law and acquire information without pay, usually with a few software modifications and some careful routing.

It's telling that they chose to put their Op-Ed people behind bars first. Hmmmm. Could it be because they know that in one sense, that's the only "original" content they have? That anyone with access to AFP, the AP and their local fishwrap basically can get the "news" without them? Or could it be because they understand their only power, a waning one at that, comes from the Celebrity Status of their heavy hitters? Perhaps this is why Judy "I'm Fucking Right" Miller is still such a cause for the editors. Mystique baby, myth and mystique. It surely can't be for her looks...

Anyway, as I said at the title: I don't care if they charge for some, all, or editions that fall on days that end in "y." I have other ideas about why avoiding the Times is actually good for one's mental health, but I'll let others comment upon that. In the end, what comes to mind is the little cartoon I once saw about the new and old media. A bunch of moss-munching brontosauruses standing together looking up in the sky, as a giant, earth-shattering meteor comes hurling down from the heavens.

The dinosaurs each wore the name of a major publication, "NYT," "CBS" etc. The meteor was labeled "the internet."

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

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