Reuters is reporting that the New York Times is to close down its 'TimesSelect' service. 'TimesSelect' charged readers $50 a year to read columnists such as Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman - or in my case David Brooks and Nicholas Kristof.
"The move," writes Reuters, "is an acknowledgment by The Times that making Web site visitors pay for content would not bring in as much money as making it available for free and supporting it with advertising."
Andrew Sullivan is in a gloating frame of mind:
"The NYT reverses one of the dumbest moves in the history of online journalism. This is not the benefit of hindsight. It was obvious at the time that this kind of gambit would never work for online opinion, and anyone with a pulse and a modem could see that, including many of the columnists themselves. In some ways, it was less a business decision, it seems to me, than a sheer assertion, by slightly desperate men, that somehow Times opiners merited a fee in a way no one else did - least of all those - shudder - bloggers. Two years ago, they could still assert that with a straight face, even if the rest of us were snickering. No longer. The NYT has some great columnists and some unreadable ones. But they are not a class apart. They are merely part of a much larger and better conversation than any Sulzberger could ever own. Welcome to the blogosphere, guys. It's free."
The Spectator recently abandoned its efforts to charge for content.
The only major newspapers to successfully charge for content are the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal. Their specialist financial content is able to command a fee.