September 21, 2005

The Retailer Strikes Back?

Uh-oh-- maybe my new venture isn't going to last as long as I'd hoped. Editor & Publisher reports that the New York Times News Service, the Times's syndicate, is changing its policies:

Previously, NYTNS clients could post Times columns on their Web sites for 24 hours if they also published them in their print editions. Now, newspapers can post the work of Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, and others only in a paid area of their sites.

"All English-language clients of the news service -- whether domestic or foreign -- have agreed to either not post the columns they publish or to put the columns behind a paid wall," said NYTNS Executive Editor Laurence M. Paul, when reached by E&P Online.

They remain behind the curve, as of yesterday (when the E&P story ran):
Paul said he knows of only one newspaper -- in Australia -- that posted a Times column in a free part of its site Monday. When NYTNS learned that Bob Herbert was appearing gratis on that paper's site, it contacted the client to ask that this not happen again.

What would NYTNS do if other newspaper sites posted columns that could be accessed for free? Paul reiterated that this hasn't been a problem so far, and that clients realize they now have a different contractual obligation.

Umm, I have a list of those that apparently aren't aware of the new policy-- though some of the Never Pay Retail links are already dying, and one of them explicitly announces the rights issue. I'll keep the site up as long as I keep finding links, though.

I wrote in May that "I doubt there will be new restrictions on what NYTNS clients can do with their content that give online exclusivity; the syndicate is a cash cow that 42nd St. would be very foolish to tip." Mickey Kaus, linking to that item, wasn't so sure they wouldn't change syndication policies. Score one for Mickey, but I maintain that this is foolish; there are lots of syndicated columnists out there that are just as good as the Times stable. More from E&P:

Paul doesn't anticipate the paid wall having a significant impact on NYTNS' sales and nearly 100% renewal rates. And, since NYTNS has contracts with clients that last at least a year, any possible impact may not be known for several months.
If they have contracts that last a year, how can they change the terms midstream? If you were running a local newspaper, would you keep doing business with a syndicate that behaved like that?

UPDATE: Explains commenter Brett: "The fine print on most contracts allows the richer party to change terms without notice. Businesses are withing their rights to do so, but it remains a trashy behavior." It sure does.

Posted by John Tabin at September 21, 2005 02:19 PM

I like what you're doing. I don't know if the Times is right or wrong to charge for their editorials. It's very sad for me and a loss.


Posted by: rea kleeman at September 21, 2005 03:16 PM

MoDo's 9-21 column is posted here...

Posted by: dwahzon at September 21, 2005 03:34 PM

Well, I think they've managed to find a way to decrease their readership even further.

Posted by: Botswana at September 21, 2005 04:48 PM

The fine print on most contracts allows the richer party to change terms without notice. Businesses are withing their rights to do so, but it remains a trashy behavior.

Posted by: Brett at September 21, 2005 04:49 PM

I hope the Times does, in fact, foil your efforts to circumvent TimeSelect. This might compel you, instead, to run a service that offers an alternative (but similar) column for every one the Times runs. All those "just as good" writers would become BETTER, in the eyes of bloggers and online readers everywhere, simply because they would be accessible (and linkable).

The service would quickly become self-researching if you alerted the general media of its existence. They read the Times also, and would email you with their alt-Maureen-Dowd, alt=Krugman (etc) columns du jour. Soon you would not have to search for them, but merely choose the best sources and run them.

Another fun feature suggestion: The TimeSelect Deathwatch clock, featuring dates (as they happen) when various bettors have determined the service will end.

Posted by: Mr. Snitch! at September 21, 2005 04:58 PM

I didn't look for Dowd or Krugman when they were free, so this just kills my interest in the NYT for good.

In fact, I almost think that they should pay me for reading those two. Reimbursement for wasted time.

Posted by: David R. Block at September 21, 2005 05:15 PM

I will miss Tierney.

Posted by: darkcoffee at September 21, 2005 05:22 PM

I'm in agreement with David. I've known for too long what they're about, if I want left-wing smear and dribble I can look anywhere. Its a complete waist of money.

Posted by: steevo at September 21, 2005 05:27 PM

only a liberal thinks it normal to pay for their opinion.

Paying for well researched & written NEWS is one thing, paying for someone's news opinion or editorializing is STUPID.

Posted by: buzz lightyear at September 21, 2005 05:31 PM

Can't say I will miss their anti-American dribble. Now only the hard core lefty base will be exposed to it and only think of all those corrections they will never have to correct. Thank God for small blessings.

Posted by: owl at September 21, 2005 05:46 PM

If I cared to read Krugman and Dowd's and the rest of The Collective's mindset I simply just need to go to any of the free leftist, communist, or anti-Semitic hate sites to read the same thing.

Posted by: Faith+1 at September 21, 2005 06:15 PM

I'd like to think that thanks to you, John Tabin, astute readers shall find a way of circumventing the "wall" mentioned by the NYTNS itself.

Posted by: Jeffrey Arsham at September 21, 2005 06:34 PM

Maybe the NYT's silences will become more accurate... for some twenty years now, informed citizens have attended not to what Pinch publishes but to what his depleted squib leaves out. Not just Kerry's dishonorable discharge and phony decorations, Swift Boat veterans or Air America, but virtually anything reflecting ill on the day's Democrat-of-choice. Clinton toured East Europe on a KGB passport, ratting out student dissenters during Prague Spring? Substantial DNC funds came from Red Chinese intelligence agencies in exchange for clearance to review US nuclear-research files? Nary a word... as the saying goes, the Times "isn't right-- it isn't even wrong." Its product has become just meaningless.

If Pinch bowed out tomorrow, one wonders if any of his clan's next generation has a clue. Must say, I doubt it, because how could they? Journalism's so-called credentials, its mutual-admiration societies, have long-since forfeited every vestige of respect. Remember the Saturday Evening Post? For over a century, an American icon... but after running blatant, unalloyed Hanoi propaganda for some years from the early 1960s, the unthinkable happened-- treasonous rants unreadable, it failed.

The Times is not yet the Post, but Pinch is working on it. Islamofascist terrorism is sacrosanct as Ho Chi Minh. When silence outweighs content, because content is just noise, the final silence may well last forever.

Posted by: John Blake at September 21, 2005 07:24 PM

The idea that anybody's clammoring to read Krugman or MoDo is funny to me. And forcing people to pay for the pleasure just makes the decision NOT to read it mind-numbingly easy.

Posted by: ss at September 21, 2005 08:40 PM

I can't get Instapundit interested in my ideas. There are currently 2 ways around Times Select:
1) Your public library has a newspaper database (something like ProQuest or Opposing Viewpoint ) If you have a library card you probably can access these databases from home.
2) Your workplace may have paid for you to have access to a similar database. DoD employees have access to a portal called Army Knowledge Online, I suspect - but don't know for certain - that some (but not all) other divisions of government have similar programs. I also expect that many colleges and universities have paid for access to these databases.
I blogged about it at:

Also a few months ago the Baltimore Sun stopped carrying Thomas Friedman's column and replaced it with Trudy Rubin's. Friedman's views are no great shakes and not significantly different from Rubin's, but he at least he presents them with some flair. The problem was that the Times had increased the rate for its News Service for the package that included Friedman and the Sun couldn't afford to pay the rate.

Hey is the Times gouging?

David Gerstman

Posted by: David Gerstman at September 21, 2005 08:48 PM


There is a third way around Times Select: Don't bother. Abandoning the NYT to its own island of mutual admiration is the real answer. They seem to have listened to the RIAA's cries of "Piracy costs us money!" for too long. They're getting paranoid, and believe that they're losing money every time someone glances at their drivel without paying.

Let them keep this belief, and isolate themselves further. They are self-selecting to separate from reality, and I wish them a good, long journey.

Why on earth would you want to incurr the wrath of the NYT legal department, just to help distribute their sludge?

Face it: even if you win, your only claim to fame will be outsmarting the NYT.

The Times wants obscurity, PLEASE let them have it.


Posted by: Hanzie at September 21, 2005 09:22 PM

The Times Company practiced for a long time in Worcester, Mass., where they put their online Telegram and Gazette (a pretty crummy paper) behind a subscription firewall, with the exception of movies and some entertainment listings. If one were a paid subscriber one could log in, or it was possible to purchase individual items for about a buck (which led to some hilarious problems with billing). Basically, the publisher told me that he was 'tired' of 'bailing the community out' and couldn't care less that many individuals and families in the area would simply take the Boston Globe and do their eating and entertainment outside of Worcester. So, of course, many readers stopped reading the paper in any case. Alternative papers are thriving and the T&G remains mired. Worcester is still isolated and parochial in many respects.

By and large I couldn't care less about reading the Times op-ed writers, who have become pretty ad hominem these days, but I think it wonderfully ironic that these paragons of speaking for the disenfranchised are letting themselves reside behind this cash cow levee for the rich and cutting themselves off from leads, feedback, and the many international audiences which do read them. It's gonna piss a lot of people off who might otherwise use the Times as a resource for a NY visit, but at the end of the day I suspect the mainstream papers are looking for ways to emulate this stupid policy and the alternative media will thrive. Good.

Posted by: RK at September 21, 2005 10:42 PM

I couldn't give a stuff whether this pay wall makes them money or fails. The NYT's long been devaluing its currency in my left-of-centre liberal eyes and people I talk to only go to the NYT for the arts reviews these days.

My bet is that the suits have already done their sums, picked their conservative marks (and there would still remain many welded-on NYT regulars) and could care less if Joe Blog wants to read their stuff. The institutional subscriptions alone would make them a nice income.

Posted by: Western Australia at September 22, 2005 12:18 AM

some of us get our jollies critiquing the deep thoughts of the Democratic National Committee New York Times Op-ed contributors.

Posted by: David Gerstman at September 22, 2005 05:30 AM

Ahhh, stop making excuses: just put up the damned links, for crying out loud.!!

the link to Brook's column but the Albany TU doesn't carry Herbert.

Posted by: gilgamesh at September 22, 2005 07:42 AM

Your HTML doens't seem to work for comments.

Here's the adress then:

Posted by: gilgamesh at September 22, 2005 07:45 AM

The NYT is actually hurting itself by charging for access to these Opinion columnists. If they want to actually influence world events, and not just whine about them, then they need to spread the word as far and easily as possible. Charging to read these columns will have just the opposite effect, since it will restrict the flow of their opinions, and hence, their influence. I am certainly not motivated to go out and buy the print version of the NYT just so I can read Maureen Dowd. That's laughable. This action makes it clear that the NYT is more of a bottom-line business than it is a journalistic elite. "All the news that's fit to charge for..."

Posted by: lockerc18 at September 22, 2005 09:17 AM

Well, I grew up outside NYC thinking that the Times really did publish 'All the News that's Fit to Print'.
I guess we all grow up eventually.
My own political leanings are centrist - sometimes 'conservative', sometimes 'liberal', sometimes neither.
But the Times has finally regionalized itself, probably out of meaningful existence.
I'll stick with the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Posted by: Markomd at September 22, 2005 09:32 AM

Honestly, who is going to miss most of them?Freidman and Brooks can be interesting, but I mean, come on! Has Dowd, Herbert or Kristof ever wrtten an interesing thing in their lives? And Krugman? What's the point of reading columns that are constantly being corrected. How do you know if the column is actually in its final form?

Posted by: Jim O'Sullivan at September 22, 2005 04:26 PM

As a conservative, I am delighted that the WSJ charges for everything but opion and the NYT embargoes its columnist from the general public.

As a subscriber, I have been unable to sign up for Times select despite six attempts on 2 computers and 2 phone calls and my entire account is now not accessible on the web. When I talk to customer service on the phone, it is clear that representatives will be fired if they waste an extra 30 seconds on me and have any dedication to solving the problem. Tawdry and pathetic!

Posted by: Frank at September 23, 2005 01:44 PM

Frank, the WSJ lets a majority of its opinions and op-eds go into but usually its lead editorials don't get into Opinion Journal. For what it's worth, I think it's a big mistake. Just today, one item on how it's almost impossible to close a factory in France and another on how Seligman is striking back against Spitzer were behind the subscription wall. These are things everyone should know, and the Journal should realize that they won't be hurting themselves financially one bit if they make ALL of their editorials and op-eds available for free.

Posted by: Tom Blumer at September 23, 2005 10:31 PM

Give them a few months and they'll make their moth-eaten columnists available for nothing again. A face-saving explanaton will be offered. No one will believe it.

Posted by: Banjo at September 24, 2005 09:45 AM