| NEW YORK
NEW YORK The New York Times Co said on Monday
it will end its paid TimesSelect Web service and make most of
its Web site available for free in the hopes of attracting more
readers and higher advertising revenue.
TimesSelect will shut down on Wednesday, two years after
the Times launched it, which charges subscribers $7.95 a month
or $49.95 a year to read articles by columnists such as Maureen
Dowd and Thomas Friedman.
The trademark orange "T's" marking premium articles will
begin disappearing Tuesday night, said the Web site's Vice
President and General Manager Vivian Schiller.
The move 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
"We now believe by opening up all our content and
unleashing what will be millions and millions of new documents,
combined with phenomenal growth, that that will create a
revenue stream that will more than exceed the subscription
revenue," Schiller said.
Figuring out how to increase online revenue is crucial to
the Times and other U.S. newspaper publishers, which are
struggling with a drop in advertising sales and paying
subscribers as more readers move online.
"Of course, everything on the Web is free, so it's
understandable why they would want to do that," said Alan
Mutter a former editor at the San Francisco Chronicle and
proprietor of a blog about the Internet and the news business
called Reflections of a Newsosaur.
"The more page views you have, the more you can sell," he
said. "In the immediate moment it's a perfectly good idea."
The longer-term problem for publishers like the Times is
that they must find ways to present content online rather than
just transferring stories and pictures from the newspaper.
Most U.S. news Web sites offer their contents for free,
supporting themselves by selling advertising. One exception is
The Wall Street Journal which runs a subscription-based Web
TimesSelect generated about $10 million in revenue a year.
Schiller declined to project how much higher the online growth
rate would be without charging visitors.
The company expects to record a "substantially increased
number of unique users referred to and accessing the site" once
TimesSelect disappears, it said in a statement.
TimesSelect includes online access to 23 news and opinion
columnists as well as several tools to customize the Web site.
It also offers access to the Times archives back to 1851.
Starting on Wednesday, access to the archives will be
available for free back to 1987, and as well as stories before
1923, which are in the public domain, Schiller said.
Users can buy articles between 1923 and 1986 on their own
or in 10-article packages, the company said. Some stories, such
as film reviews, will be free, she said.
American Express will be the first sponsor of the opened
areas on the site, and will have a "significant advertising
presence" on the homepage and in the opinion and archives
sections, the company said.
Schiller declined to say what the financial impact would be
on the Times. No employees would lose their jobs, she said.
TimesSelect had about 227,000 paying subscribers as of
August. People who receive the paper at home get access to it
for free, as do students. In total, about 787,400 people have
access to TimesSelect now, the company said.
The number of subscribers met the paper's expectations,
Schiller said. "We consider TimesSelect very successful," she
Paying TimesSelect subscribers will receive a pro-rated
refund on their credit cards, she added.