Is Times Select Working?

“We’ll learn soon whether NYT is very smart — or not very,” stated a Business Week article last September  on the Times Select experiment. (via Romenesko) Ten months have passed now, I’ve kept the story in my RSS reader as I await an answer. Is it soon yet? (My answer to the question in the article’s title, Is Paul Krugman Worth $49.95?, is clearly no.) From the bearish artilce:

TimesSelect targets the 1 million heavy users of nytimes.com who don’t subscribe to the print edition, says Martin Nisenholtz, New York Times Co. (NYT ) senior vice-president of digital operations. “We are not expecting 10 million people to pay for it,” he says. “We don’t need to have them for the business model to work extremely well.”…on the decade-old Web, “free” is the default setting

Some data emerged this week. The Editor’s Weblog sites a E&P report:

TimesSelect now has well over 513,000 subscribers, 37% of which are Internet only subscribers. The service will add more features including extra video as it approaches its first anniversary which will be accompanied by a publicity campaign.

[The Times utter failure to use video in any manner beyond talking heads and Ken Burns-style floating photos is a topic for another day.]
And from Barry Graubart:

Revenues include about $9M from the TimesSelect program, begun last November.  While it’s fair to debate whether closing off the Times editorial page to non-subscribers makes long-term sense (IMO the negatives to doing so outweigh the positives), the combination of nytimes.com, TimesSelect and About.com gives the Times a diverse set of properties catering to paid subscribers, registered users and open visitors.

Most importantly, the New York Times has grown its brand and expanded its reach dramatically in the Internet age.  While other newspapers face uncertain futures, the Times has established its position as the premier source of news for English-speaking readers worldwide.

What was missed in much of the hype, and criticism, of Times Select was its experimental nature. The Times didn’t jump into the pay world waters, it just dipped in its columnists’ toes. Meanwhile, the beta version of MY Times, a RSS aggregator plus, is begining to garner some reviews, mostly guardedly favorable, as far as I gather. From Staci at Paid Content:

the NYT is also playing its ace card: beyond-the-headlines expertise from its own journalists. A small number of staffers (26 at last count) have set up their own pages and are sharing their “sources” with other MyTimes users, who can bookmark and keep track of “My Journalists’ Pages.” This is in keeping with the over-the-top tagline: “My Times: Where the best minds in journalism help you edit the Web.”

Jeff Clavier paraphrased Martin Nisenholtz’s preview of My Times at the Annenberg Hyperlinked Society conference in May:

One of the values to the Times though is the ability to aggregate the best sources of content,  including blogs, on a topical basis, and make this aggregation available to Times users alongisde their own content.

(One of my big takeaways from the day at Annenberg was Nisenholtz’s and Jimmy Wales agreement that professional and amateur projects are not at loggerheads, but rather complement each other. Weinberger has a summary of their fascinating panel, which also included Saul Hansell and Nick Carr.)

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