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New York Times to ax premium online content, rival says

Publication is planning to do away with TimesSelect, its subscription-only online content, according to the New York Post.

Note: This story was updated at 6:00 a.m. PDT to include a correction from a New York Times representative regarding TimesSelect subscriber figures cited by the New York Post.

Citing anonymous sources, the New York Post has reported that rival Manhattan paper The New York Times is planning to do away with TimesSelect, the subscription-only content on its Web site. According to the article by Holly M. Sanders, the main obstacle at the moment is reconfiguring the site's software.

A Times representative told CNET that the company isn't releasing any statement beyond: "We continue to evaluate the best approach for" The representative did point out, however, that the Post had made an error: Sanders' article said that the number of TimesSelect subscribers had fallen from 224,000 in April to slightly over 221,000 in June. According to the Times, TimesSelect subscriber numbers have actually risen from 220,090 in April to 224,580 in June.

The demise of TimesSelect, which has been in operation since 2005 and puts archived content as well as popular opinion pieces behind a subscription wall, has been rumored for some time among New York media circles. Adding fuel to the fire is News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch. When speaking about his decision to purchase Wall Street Journal company Dow Jones, he suggested that the Journal might free up its own premium content.

New-media pundits have typically been very critical of TimesSelect, considering it a disadvantage for the legendary publication to be locking up so much content, particularly opinion pieces by well-known writers. "By cutting stars like Tom Friedman and Frank Rich off from the rest of the Internet," Peter Kafka of the Silicon Alley Insider commented in July, "the Times has diminished its (and their) influence--and helped create room for upstarts like The Huffington Post to step in."

Currently, TimesSelect subscribers pay $7.95 per month, or $49.95 per year, for access to op-ed columnists, archives dating back to 1851, extra multimedia features, and occasional access to the Sunday paper's articles before they are made available for free or in print.