This is the best news I have heard in a long time. The New York Times, my favourite newspaper, will be free again. It’s dropping TimesSelect, the pay section, from tomorrow. Welcome back to the free world, Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristof, Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman. It’s no reflection on them that readers will no longer have to pay to read them. The fact is, it’s difficult for even the best writers to get people to pay to read them online.
I don’t know whom to thank: The New York Times or Rupert Murdoch. After all, the New York Times is dropping the subscription model only after Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal. Murdoch, of realised, the subscription model doesn’t work — at least for a general newspaper — and scrapped the The Times Online fees a long time ago.
That the New York Times was able to continue TimesSelect for two years, attracting 227,000 subscribers who paid $7.95 a month or $49.95 a year to read the pay site, which generated a revenue of $10 million a year, says something about the Times’ immense popularity.
Meanwhile, in Singapore …
The irony is, I first stumbled on the news on a partial pay site, the Straits Times online. Though in Singapore, I haven’t read this Singapore newspaper for more than a week now. Usually, I head straight to the New York Times and the Guardian when I go online. But I decided to check out the Straits Times online this morning and that’s where I saw the headline: New York Times to end paid Internet service. After that, of course, I ignored all the Singapore news to concentrate on this really BIG news. For if the New York Times can’t operate a subscription model, almost nobody else can.
Ah yes,the Straits Times is a partial pay site. Readers have to pay to read some of its stories online. But I wonder who does — except homesick Singaporeans languishing abroad, local nerds who don’t want old newspapers piling up in their homes (and the Straits Times can be monstrously fat with all the ads it gets), and analysts and researchers who for some reason might want to know more about Singapore.
But what they get is more spin than news. The Straits Times isn’t the New York Times or the Washington Post. And most of the news one can possibly expect to get about Singapore is available for free at the Channel NewsAsia site. (Unless it’s something to do with maids or mistresses, when one has to read the tabloid New Paper.) But the Straits Times publishes what news and views it can, and there are people still willing to pay to read it online. I wonder, for how long?