NY Times' TimesSelect Axes Subscription Firewall

The New York Times Web site is tearing down the subscription firewall around its "TimesSelect" content, which includes opinion columns, special reports, and free access to the newspapers' archives, effective at midnight on Tuesday. The announcement, made late Monday through an article posted on the Web site, marks the second anniversary of the paid subscription service, which was available for free to print subscribers. Online subscribers who have paid in advance will receive pro-rated refunds.

After a strong start, accumulating a total of 787,000 paying subscribers, the growth of TimesSelect had begun to plateau over the last year. Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of NYTimes.com, was quoted in the article as saying: "Our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising." Schiller also said the paid sub setup didn't take into account traffic directed to the paper's site by search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Support for removing the paid content firewall was growing in recent months, with some executives expressing concern that it drove away younger readers, who are used to getting news for free. Another blow came in August when Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt, authors of the popular book "Freakonomics," agreed to host a blog of the same name on the site--but demanded it not be placed behind the TimesSelect firewall.



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