Changing with 'The Times'

The "New York Times" drops TimesSelect, recognizing a mistake that only got worse as ad spending trends continued to shift.

I grew up with The New York Times and still believe that for all its faults, real or imagined, this remains the best general interest daily newspaper published in the United States--in print and online.

When you're that visible, everyone's got an opinion. So it is that The Times gets it from the left, from the right and from the whack jobs who inhabit that bizarre netherworld beyond both extremes.

But anyone who thinks sensibly about the intersection of media and the Internet has to agree that The Times made the right decision when it announced today the end of the TimesSelect subscription service.

A couple of years ago, the newspaper put its primo content as well as its archives behind a cybergate. At the time, the decision raised a lot of hackles. Just another proof point for the critics that the "mainstream media" didn't have a clue.

That was harsh but it was hard to escape the conclusion that The Times' business managers were unintentionally about to push away potential new business. Turns out that TimesSelect only accounted for $10 million a year, not much in the larger scheme of things.

Apropos, check out this perceptive piece in Advertising Age about advertising spending trends:

"But there's something else going on that has nothing to do with the natural rhythms of booms and busts or the fortunes of Madison Avenue's biggest clients. Simply put, American companies are shifting more and more marketing dollars out of paid media."

With U.S. ad spending dropping for a second consecutive quarter, give The Times' management this much: They can read spreadsheets just as well as anybody. Compared to the sharp growth in Internet advertising, TimesSelect was a nickel-and-dime operation. It was time to reverse that mistake and change with the times.

So they did. Better late than never.

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About the author

Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.

 

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