Newspapers have been trying for the better part of a decade to figure out how to leverage their Web sites into money makers. When I say money makers, I mean with the typical print profit margins of 20 to 30 percent or better. The only newspaper that has been successful at this is the Wall Street Journal.
Two years ago, The New York Times made a modest foray into the paid model two years ago with TimesSelect. The Times didn't put all of its content behind the pay wall, but did place its columnists and archives off-limits to those who weren't print subscribers or willing to pay $50 a year for TimesSelect membership.
Starting at midnight tomorrow night, the wall comes down.
This may very well mean that I start beating up on columnist Paul Krugman again -- Hoystory's primary claim to fame (and Krugman's) in the early part of this decade. Putting its columnists behind the pay wall was really the Times' big mistake. One of the largest newspapers in the country silenced its most persuasive voices for two years. Krugman, David Brooks, Maureen Dowd were once talked about. They had, to a greater or lesser degree, some influence on the public dialogue and they were silenced for two years.
I continue to believe that newspapers can get people to pay for online content. The problem is, it needs to be additional content. I'd point to ESPN's "Insider" as a prime example. You get a lot just from the regular Web site, but some video, online chats and blogs are extra.
This is probably the best decision the Times could've made for their bottom line.
And Krugman's long overdue for a beating.