May 19, 2005
The Times Fallacy
Most of the discussion of the New York Times plan to charge for online access to their op-ed columns seems to rest on a faulty assumption that the op-ed page is a single product, available online only through nytimes.com. A typical example:
In The Boston Globe, consultant Peter M. Zollman noted that the Times is perhaps uniquely positioned to make this plan work. "Maureen Dowd and Tom Freidman are premium content," he told the Times Co.-owned paper. "You don't find those types of columnists at other newspapers."Actually, you find exactly those columnists at papers all over the country. Here's Dowd in the Falls Church News-Press. Here's Friedman in the Salt Lake Tribune. All of the regular NYT op-ed columnists, in fact, are widely syndicated by the New York Times News Service. (I've put links to the last five days of columns beneath the fold.) I doubt there will be new restrictions on what NYTNS clients can do with their content that give nytimes.com online exclusivity; the syndicate is a cash cow that 42nd St. would be very foolish to tip.
So the kings of the lefty and righty blogosphere are missing the big picture when they agree that NYT op-eds won't get links anymore:
If my readers can't read it, why would I link to it? The key to blogging is that readers can look at the source material and make up their own minds.So you'll link to the columns in a different paper (usually a day or two after they show up in the Times)-- and reward the papers that make those columns available with more eyeballs to drive their ad revenue. The fee for the nytimes.com op-eds will amount to a tax on those who don't have the time or online savvy to hunt down the content elsewhere. But one of the big reasons people read blogs (in particular the link-heavy ones, like Instapundit) is that bloggers hunt down content so you don't have to.
For the record, here are the last five days worth of NYT columns, with no links to nytimes.com at all (there are a couple links here to the International Herald Tribune, which the Times owns, but I don't know of any plan to change IHT's online access policies yet):
Wednesday: Friedman (Dowd is on vacation).