And don't make me tell you again

Jason Kottke seems to have decided this week to empty a full clip of silver bullets into the just-stilled heart of the New York Times’ ill-conceived TimesSelect subscription service. He’s been digging through the now-free archives of the Times, finding treasures and blogging the hell out of them.

Earlier this week, he celebrated the first day of free archive access with Gems from the archive of the New York Times, including articles on Lincoln’s assassination, Custer’s last stand, and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, through to the first mention of the web. Next, he threw in a link to Paul Krugman’s new blog, Krugman being one of the main voices muffled by TimesSelect’s paywall. Finally, today, he found what seems to be the first restaurant review in the Times, from January 1st, 1859. This last is completely wonderful to read — history, foodism, and love for New York, all in one.

I take it that the point of this progression is to show what the web, and the Times, have been missing by locking away TimesSelect. Hear, hear. Jason is producing a beautifully illuminated manuscript, glorifying the new openness and implicitly scolding the failure to get there sooner. I hope everyone in a position to make the same sort of mistake the Times made with this program will find Jason’s posts and see in them the canonical example of why not to bet against the Internet. Don’t make us tell you again (*ahem*, Economist! That last link is a trackback to “irony”).

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  • http://www.quakerranter.org Martin Kelley

    That’s great that the Times is finally opening itself. I’m an online Times reader but when I’ve gone to link an article I’ve often used the Washington Post, sometimes going out of my way to find the equivalent article. Why? Because the Post hasn’t firewalled its most interesting material and because they have a trackback feature that means Post readers might come to my site. That’s encouraging for me (and my links) but it also makes for a richer experience for Post readers, who can easily move from news to commentary.

    I have lots of work to do but suspect I’ll be following Kottke’s links for a while this morning.

  • David C

    I find it hard to fault the NYT for trying to generate revenue to support its staff of real journalists who do real journalist investigative work.

    If established journalism organizations like the NYT fail, what will all of the copy-cat bloggers out their blog about? Oh, the same thing they already do, each other. LOL

  • http://www.wesabe.com Marc Hedlund

    David,

    Of course I don’t fault the Times for trying to run a business. The point about this change, though, is that even they now believe they’ll make more money without the paywall than they do with it.

    I think that’s what Eric Schmidt is trying to express in that article (last link, Economist).

  • moya

    very nice – if that’s not an endorsement for openness on the Web i don’t know what is. i would not have known about the fine dining reviews of the mid-1800s were it not for blogger Kottke.

  • Anonymous

    If TimesSelect was ill-conceived and a mistake, why isn’t radar.oreilly.com/r2/ also a mistake?

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Anonymous, Release 2.0 may also be a mistake — one never knows. But as a friend of mine once said, you pick the hat to fit the head.

    The Times has a crack at an advertising supported model — their readership is big enough. R2 does not.

    A lot of people seem to think it’s either/or, but in fact, history teaches us that every business model has a place. R2 has small circulation/high price as a key part of its model, because the assumption is that even if it were free, that wouldn’t generate enough ad dollars to pay for it.

    You could ask the same question about Safari Books Online, also a subscription service. It generates tens of millions of dollars in subscription revenue for the participating publishers. Meanwhile, the ad revenue from those same books in Google Book Search is measured in thousands of dollars. The ad base just isn’t there. Maybe one day it will be, and we’ll embrace the better model.

    The Times is in a unique position where they had a choice of models, where they were making significant revenue from subscriptions, but decided they’d make more from advertising.