Turning My Back On The New New York Times

Mar 22, 2011

Ever since the New York Times announced that it’s moving from free online web access to a paid subscription I’ve been torn. And sad. I spent most of my life in New York, I grew up in Brooklyn, and the Times has been a part of my life for nearly as long as I can remember.

Growing up, there was the Sunday morning ritual of freshly bought bagels and, of course, the Sunday Times. What a bargain ! The Week In Review, the Arts section, and on and on. (And let us not forget the lingerie ads – a secret soft-core bonus for the boys of every borough and beyond.)

Also – and nobody but a New Yorker could possibly know about this – there’s even a special way to fold the Times origami-style, so you can read and yet not disturb the people pinched up to the left and right of you on the subway. I remember my Dad showing me how it was done when I started commuting to high school every morning from Brooklyn to lower Manhattan.
Rites of passage. Only in New York. Great memories.

The Last Time They Asked, I Paid

Back in 2005, the Times began charging readers for online access to its Op-Ed columnists in a program called TimesSelect. It was about $60 a year. I enjoyed the Op-Ed section a lot and, to some extent, I was grateful that the entire paper was online for free, and so I paid for the subscription partly as a show of support. $5 bucks a month, what the heck. However, TimesSelect didn’t work out for them – I’m assuming they lost too many readers and too much advertising revenue – and they did away with it after two years. They sent me and the other subscribers a pro-rated refund.
But now we’re not talking about $60 a year anymore.
Here’s the New York Times’ new take-it-or-leave-it proposition:

Once readers click on their 21st article [the first twenty for the month are free] they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages — $15 every four weeks for access to the Web site and a mobile phone app (or $195 for a full year), $20 for Web access and an iPad app ($260 a year) or $35 for an all-access plan ($455 a year). All subscribers who take home delivery of the paper will have free and unlimited access across all Times digital platforms except, for now, e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

The New York Times Can Kiss My Ass

That’s my answer. I don’t have the patience for convoluted overpriced schemes like this. I’ve had it with ultimatums. This is just one more lopsided End User License Agreement. And it’s one that I can walk away from, so I’m walkin’. Besides, if this is where their heads are at, perhaps the “newspaper” as an organizational model for delivering news is not long for this world.
How the Times monetizes their site – which gets about 40 million hits a month, BTW – is not my problem, it’s their problem. I wonder if they’ve tried delivering any ultimatums to their advertisers lately?

My life just got simpler and probably a whole lot better. I stopped reading the Times three days ago. Cold turkey. And if the Times is out of the free stream, I won’t be linking to any of their articles unless I absolutely have no choice. I’m not going to be a salesman for the New York Times, for free.

Why Are They Doing This Anyway?

If you read their financial report for 2010, it’s hard to understand why the Times is doing this at all. There’s no tone of desperation. If anything, the report paints a fairly rosy picture.

“Operating profit increased to $234 million in 2010, more than triple the $74 million we reported in 2009, and operating profit excluding depreciation, amortization, severance and special items grew 20% to $384 million in 2010 from $320 million in 2009.

And why now? When so many people are jobless and the economy is struggling? It seems the Times has a new motto:
All The News For Those With The Means To Pay Whatever We Ask

There’s something about this that just feels wrong. The pricing, the timing, the tone of it. Not even a student discount? It turns out that the NYTimes site was shareware set to expire after fifteen years, and time’s up.

Here are the relevant links so you can read all about it straight from them:
The Times Announces Digital Subscription Plan
A Letter to Our Readers About Digital Subscriptions

And that’s the end of it. I move on.

Sharing Options:

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: