The biggest news of the day by far, so need to post something on it, but the NY Times putting its top commentators and “some news” behind subscription is a pretty straightforward deal, really, as can be judged by the fact that everyone who’s commenting on it is right, really. Yes, it’s priced low enough not to be a major disincentive, and yes, an archive potentially going back to 1851 is a pretty good product for less than 50 bucks a year (or free with a newspaper subscription). And yes, it’s sensible for the NYT to be considering secondary revenue streams in anticipation of a maturing advertising model.
On the other hand, people are right when they say it may cut commentators off from the linking-blogging-conversosphere, and the commentators may at some point in the future walk away because of this (although I have to say that, right now, that seems like wishful thinking from bloggers with a rather over-inflated sense of self-importance). And clearly the NYT is going to suffer from some degradation of its Web footprint. But I’ve always thought it was pretty remarkable how well the NYT does in terms of Pagerank etc. with registration in front of it; in this context, subscription doesn’t seem to me to be a major leap. The leap from non-registration to registration is bigger.
So, what do I think? I think newspapers have to do these kinds of things. We’ve experimented with our own subscription products at Guardian Unlimited, and we’ll continue to do so, because it’s the right thing to do. And I believe the NYT when they say they’ll see how it goes. No hidden agenda, just a deep breath and a lots of toes in the water. Fair enough.