In “A Letter to Readers About TimesSelect, the paper writes:
Effective Sept. 19, we are ending TimesSelect. All of our online readers will now be able to read Times columnists, access our archives back to 1987 and enjoy many other TimesSelect features that have been added over the last two years – free.
Glad to see that the Times is putting its great cast of columnists more firmly back into the public conversation than they’d been behind the pay-wall. That’s excellent news for the writers and the readers.
The second part of this shift may actually be more important. The Times is opening its archives, or at least the past 20 years worth.
Presumably, each article will have a perma-link. If so, watch what happens. The Times’ stories — many of which are definitive moments of journalism — will become the de facto primary sources for people around the Web, and around the world. On topic after topic, the Times story (or stories) will move near or to the top of the search engine rankings. They will become more valuable for keyword and other advertising once people click through to the actual stories.
The Times clearly gets this. From the letter:
Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.
About two and a half years ago, I joined Doc Searls and others in calling on newspapers to open their archives, for exactly these reasons. A senior online executive at the Times subsequently assured me that I was delusional if I thought the paper would ever do this, given the revenues it was attracting selling archived articles one at a time.
We won’t know for some time whether this experiment proves financially valuable beyond the utterly essential value the Times is offering to people who care about journalism. Needless to say, I believe it will.
I hope other newspapers will follow the Times’ lead, and do it quickly.
(Disclosure: I own a small amount of NY Times Co. stock. It is currently worth less than I paid for it.)