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TimesSelect: Will It Change The Way The Web Works?

They don't call it the news business for nothing but don't try telling that to a blogosphere up in arms over the launch of the New York Times' new premium content service, TimesSelect. For $7.95 per month, or $49.95 for an entire year, anyone who doesn't already subscribe to the paper can now access its op-ed columnists, archives and other material. Of course up until now you could get them for free, thus the animosity from the Web.

A quick glance at the blog search engine Technorati shows this was one of the most-discussed topics yesterday and a look at some of the reaction is less-than favorable on any number of levels. It's not surprising. After all, free speech is the blogosphere standard.

It all does seem to be a ponderous move from the Times. On the one hand, the paper's columnists – Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman among others – are often the lynchpins for the debates that happen on the Web. Despite all the attacks on the mainstream media, it's folks like this who still largely set the agenda – or at least supply the ammunition. But will an audience used to getting it for free really start to pay? Doesn't the paper stand to gain more from promoting its voices than from hiding them? And will they be able to keep material from getting out, if not in full, then at least in part?

As good as it is, I wouldn't want to pay to read Public Eye – or any other blog for that matter. And it seems the trend in Internet news is toward more free content, especially video, supported by advertising and the move by the Times flies in the face of that. Of course, it's somewhat hypocritical for me to join in on the Times-bashing. After all, my last job was for a publication that charged substantially more than $49.95 a year!

We'll be curious to follow the debate over this and the future success of TimesSelect. Will you subscribe?