September 25, 2005

Never Pay Retail FAQ

Readers of my main blog will know some of what follows, but I thought it would be a good idea to collect this all in one place.

Is this legal?

Me putting up links? Yes. For the websites where Never Pay Retail points, the details get a bit murkier.

The New York Times News Service, the Times's syndicate, changed their policy when TimesSelect debuted; newspapers are no longer supposed to post NYTNS columns in free areas of their websites. It didn't occur to the Times, apparently, that they needed to make this clear long in advance of TimesSelect's launch; many newspapers are still posting Times columns. (NYTNS contracts generally last a year, so to change the terms like this was, while no doubt consistent with the fine print, pretty lousy business behavior on the Times's part.)

I've linked to two websites that aren't actually subscribers to the syndicate. One, The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive, stopped posting Paul Krugman's columns with the explanation:

I received this email (posted in its entirety) from Paul Krugman this past Wednesday:
Subject: Alas, the Times is complaining


Andy Rosenthal called - they have apparently become aware of your site (I think too many bloggers gave the link) and asked me to drop a line asking you to stop providing the colum for free. Yuk.

Therefore, I cannot continue to post his columns from The New York Times on this site.
The other one is the lefty, which follows each column with a legal disclaimer claiming fair use rights for "for research and educational purposes."

Even though they would seem to hold up as well as, legally speaking (I'll leave it to others to judge how well that might be), I've avoided links to rogue cut-and-paste jobs in message boards and the like. When I blogged about it, most commenters seemed to agree that doing so would feel less than Kosher.

How long do you think this site will last?

Given the Times's efforts to close the syndication loophole, not very long. But I'll keep it up as long as possible. (And yes, I realize that I'm essentially giving the Times a map to wayward syndicate subscribers.)

What about the other TimesSelect columns-- Sports, Business, etc.?

Given that Never Pay Retail probably won't last very long, expanding outside of the op-ed columns doesn't strike me as worth the effort.

Doesn't the Times have a right to charge for its columns?

Of course. They even have a right to charge more than you'd pay for a year's worth of digital access to most opinion magazines. And they have a right to relinquish the next generation of potential Times addicts to other newspapers. The right to run your business into the ground is inalienable.

I created Never Pay Retail to mock the Times's cluelessness, not to correct for it.

Posted by John Tabin at September 25, 2005 02:02 PM


You're absolutely right, of course. But even more than that, they have a right to relinquish their position as "the newspaper of record," by intentionally constricting the audience for the source of their influence. Everyone else who posts opinion to try to sway the opinion of the world desperately tries to increase their audience. For whatever utterly inexplicable, small-minded, short-term-MBA-think-quarterly-balance-sheet reason, the Times has decided they want fewer people to heed their opinion.

Weird. Sad, but weird!

Posted by: Stephen Leonard at September 25, 2005 02:19 PM

John, the business about the right to run a business into the ground is amusing, and i cannot believe anyone as dumb as the times management will continue to run a profitable business. that paper will always exist for snobby anti israel and secularist elites.
sulzburger really should be ashamed of himself.


Posted by: lee tabin at September 25, 2005 02:40 PM

John Tobin,..... you suck. Your 15 minutes of fame made you into a farce. I saw those three columnists on Meet The Press today. They were dumb and dumpy individuals who were parodies of thoughtful opinion writers.... Dowd, Freeman and Brooks. What the f***? Snippy sarcastic elitists who have been given some kind of proverbial celebrity status by you and the clones who have made this pay-per-view travesty into such a BFD. They weren't worth the sweat off my balls, much less $50 a year to read. I feel ripped off and cheated twice, first by the NYT and secondly by you and this ridiculous Never Pay Retail site. Let this whole sordid mess finish swirling around in the toilet bowl and flush away out of sight, and out of the reach of my nostrils.

Posted by: JokesOnYou at September 25, 2005 03:38 PM

The NYT has some of the best opinion pieces in the world. They have a right to charge and they are worth it. Looking for some crappy, uninformed, free opinions? They're all over the internet.

Posted by: Bob Meinetz at September 25, 2005 03:43 PM

As to Bob's comment:

Of course the Times has the RIGHT to charge, I certainly don't dispute that.

The question, though, is are they cutting off their nose to improve their face?

Opinion writers are only worth the level of discussion they create. If nobody can read the columns, what has the Times done? Would not fewer and fewer pay, since fewer and fewer read? No reason to pay to read to discuss what nobody is discussing.

Oh, I'd be thrilled if I was MoDowd, writing crap to start with, that at least people read to complain about, but now, nobody sees.

If a tree falls in the forest....

Posted by: John B. at September 25, 2005 07:23 PM

The funny thing is that this strategy can in no way increase readership. It can only DECREASE readership for the columnists while temporarily lining the corners of the Times' pockets.

How do I know this? Because the strategy has already desreased Tom Friedman's readership by one. Me.

Posted by: Rick Prescott at September 25, 2005 07:49 PM

I can't help but believe that Karl Rove awoke and thought that he had died and gone to heaven when the Times dumped three of the most reviled people on his "enemies" list -- Dowd, Krugman, and Rich -- from widespread circulation. Whatever in the world was NYT thinking?

And, making things even worse, is the Times's arrogance of including subscription content on its "Most E-mailed" list. The first "friend" of mine who sends me a link to paid content is going to receive a stern rebuke; if he does it a second time, he'll be killfiled.

Posted by: Richard Anderson at September 25, 2005 08:45 PM

At $49 per year they must feel their readers will buy enough subscriptions to pay the freight so to speak. Why should everything on the net be free. It's not anyway you know, lots of content is behind walls. Personally I dislike the NYT for its liberal, no socialist editorial stance. On the other hand I applaud them for judging their material of some value. Really if you want to read it that badly then pay for it. It is that simple.
btw- their TimesFile feature on the new service is Furl under a private label. In some senses the NYT is beginning to get it. The purchase of About dot com was the first signal.

Posted by: Mike at September 25, 2005 09:24 PM

Mike: spoken like a true commission paid salesman whore. Bush and Rove would be proud.

Now, go rip off and old lady with a money management scam and sell a non-existant property and casualty policy to a New Orleans flood victim.

Why are you trolling around a free access to NYT Op-ed's site anyway? You two-faced punk.

Posted by: Ralph Nader at September 25, 2005 10:47 PM

One would think that if you pay for the NYT that the advertising would be removed from the pages - at any rate the entirely annoying pop up advertising.

I believe that the profit is from the advertising dollars in a newspaper, based on circulation; the subscription price would cover the cost of production.

At $50 I think the price is too high.

Posted by: Terri K at September 26, 2005 03:29 AM

Everything on the web should be free. Everything should be free. People get stuck on the vending model that revenue is raised per some theoretical unit sold, but that's just one model. Too much of legacy American business is ruled by the sales managment staff whose careers are shaped around bait and switch collection schemes.
For a view of the real future, take Craig's List, or Google for example, the model of a large public service giveaway in exchange for a few cash generating services provided to businesses that have budgets for something special and exclusive. This way, the cyber-landscape is structured much more effectively, and new forms of community and commerce(for they always go together) evolve. The old nickel-per-play idea is on it's way out as the web blazes new trails that defy traditional business. The legalist tribe will be the last passengers on the bus to the future, as p-to-p hacking and real-time remix media break down the edifice of the property-policing state.

NYT is short sighted, and I will ONLY read their articles if I can get them for free. Find someone else to pay for it. Ads? investors? government grants paid for by capital gains taxes?

Posted by: Erasmus B. Dragon at September 26, 2005 03:30 AM

I couldnt be happier that Thomas friedman, is on his way out. I have been waiting years for the day that his dyspicable crap would be squeezed, choked, and totaly gaged for good. The end is in sight, and all of us with a tinge of honesty and integrity will be the glader for it.

Posted by: shmuly Levitin at September 26, 2005 06:31 AM

John thanks for providing the NY Times op-ed article. the Comment from Jokesonyou person is reflective of the Orwellian strategy of Misdirection so it must be one of the mental patients from the Elephant party that got loose.

Thank you for sticking up for the little people.

john d.

Posted by: John D at September 26, 2005 06:55 AM

Bring Back Warren Harding

A health care disaster in the U.S.

Posted by: someone at September 26, 2005 07:16 AM

Thanks for aiding the free exchange of ideas, which is what the university of the internet is all about. If your site is thwarted, another will spring up. I agree that the opinion wall is counterproductive. Is the Times really this desperate to withhold some of its on-line edition unless the consumer pays for it? Does freedom of the press include the freedom to read? Several times a week for many years, I have been buying the New York Times to enjoy while I sit in a sidewalk cafe. It seemed so civilized: a cup of coffee and the Times. However, in protest of this new policy, I am buying no more Times. No more cash outlay; no more being exposed to their advertisers and articles. The columnists will appear at other locations--Commondreams is one that often reprints Dowd, Rich, and Herbert; however the Times strategy is rendering the op-ed pieces to irrelevance on the day they are published, when many people like to discuss them, especially on-line. There is more in the cost-benefit analysis than the upfront economics of this misguided policy.

Posted by: Utrillo at September 26, 2005 07:48 AM

The NYTimes has LOST it. The sole purpose of op-ed is to INFLUENCE readers. Has anyone at the NYT noticed that the Wall Street Journal charges for its reporting but gives away its opinions. Heck, the WSJ aggressively works to get its opinions in front of as many viewers as possible! Between Judith Miller, this BOZO move & the op-ed inclusion of extremist right wingers who have NO journalistic integrity, I've had it with the NYTimes. They are as clueless as the Democratic party leadership. Krugman, Dowd, Rich & Friedman would do well to abandon the Times & market themselves on the internet. THAT I'd pay for! Until then Paul Krugman, I guess this 15 year true Believer will read what comments of your comments I see.

Posted by: bailey at September 26, 2005 08:10 AM

[Redacted for anti-Semitism. -JT]

Posted by: Susan at September 26, 2005 08:31 AM

I read Tom Friedman in my local newspaper, The Orlando Sentinel. OK, so it's a day late...while I'm usually impressed with his logic and organization, for $50 I can wait a day.

Orlando, out...

Posted by: wje at September 26, 2005 09:03 AM

I wouldn't mind the NYT charging for the articles so much if they did a per-article micropricing scheme like the Independent has for some of their stuff. That way, the days when I find the NYT tossed in the recycling bin (which are frequent), I wouldn't need to pay for the article.

Not only that, but I already subscribe to one electric edition paper in full, the Asahi Shinbun. That one is 500 yen a month. Thing is I often see the NYT printing translated versions of the editorials that appear in that paper first (I think their English version is the International Herald Tribune?), but it isn't mutual.

As for Friedman I've often disagreed with him but his latest column about how we need a "space race" for new energy is something I've been saying now for years, so I was happily surprised!

Posted by: A. Mayuzumi at September 26, 2005 11:19 AM

NYT has lost thousands of readers. Let's see how long TimesSelect lasts. Hopefully it will die a quick death, but bad capitalist ideas have a way of hanging on. I'm not a fan of Friedman either, but the op-ed page was usually worthy of discussion. Now they've been consigned to irrelevancy.

Posted by: phree at September 26, 2005 12:31 PM

Maybe George Soros would be willing to subsidize the NYT into the future....

Posted by: GCoad at September 26, 2005 01:21 PM

It amazes me that the NY Times expects anybody except that select few who already think they know it all to pay to read their material. Their News is so slanted now that the entire paper has declined considerably. It certainly is not the "Paper of Record" anymore.

Posted by: M C Temkin at September 26, 2005 05:50 PM

One "loophole" that remains open (so far, at least) is online access to the Times through many libraries. Many libraries in New York get full access to the Times through the NOVEL database, for example. Check your local library's web site - you will usually need a card number to access it (but you have a library card, don't you?)

I would have paid a reasonable fee but for one or two articles a day, it's just too much. Not everyone who reads the Times is wealthy.

Posted by: Karen at September 26, 2005 08:29 PM

I subscribe to the Times, and find all but John Tierney unreadable. However, I get more opinion than I need by reading the front page. They should charge for the opinion screeds that mascarade as news too. Then I wouldn't waste time on my way to Circuits.

Posted by: frank at September 27, 2005 08:02 PM

frank hit the nail on the head. Since the NYT constantly editorializes in the news pages better charge for that too. Why anyone would pay to read Krugman is beyond me. The public editor of Krugman's own paper the NY Times is currently lambasting Krugman for his latest lie about florida elections that he refuses to correct in his column. had Krugman as the most biased columnist in the U.S. a few years ago. he know shares that honor with Ann Coulter.
Since Krugman is so completely one-sided you can determine where he stands on very issue without ever reading his column. By definition if the GOP is for it Krugman is opposed. If Bush supports it Krugman is virulently opposed. Doesn't matter what the issue is.
Isn't more interesting to read acolumnist who might surprise you with his/her views and finds the strengths and weaknesses in both parties? The NY Times has very few columnists of that sort.
Example: NY times opposed money for New orleans levees earlier in 2005 but then criticized bush fornot spending enough on flood control.

NY Times opposed filibusters during Clinton administration but support them now. The NY Times always has negative things to say about the economy when GOP is in power but the glass is half full when a Dem is in power.(Utter hypocrisy is their specialty)

Good Riddance to NYTimes editorials, people should read the Washington Post-a much better paper which although liberal has editorials that aren't always predictable in advance and acknowledges the flaws and good sides of each party.

Posted by: MortimerSnerd at September 29, 2005 01:23 AM

I think I'll choose option B, stop reading the NY Times. Somehow, I don't think that is what they want to hear.

If I was selling news and advertising, I'd want all the readers I could possibly get! It is certainly fair for them to charge. But it's also fair for me to get news elsewhere, and, in doing so, reduce the NY Times income from advertising, which, I'd suspect is large.

Posted by: Joe at September 29, 2005 11:56 AM