There are basically only two business models for media distribution: advertising, and charging for access. Print media typically uses a combination of both whereas online media for the most part has relied exclusively on advertising. One of the few exceptions was the New York Times and their TimesSelect
service. For $7.95 a month or $49.95 a year, visitors could read articles by columnists such as Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman. It might come as a surprise, but apparently this offer didn't manage to seduce enough people to keep TimesSelect alive.
As Reuters reports
, TimesSelect will be closing it's virtual doors tomorrow after two years of business. Despite the 227,000 paid subscribers, the Times has decided that the company will raise more profits by opening their site and focusing on advertising instead. Vivian Schiller, the web site's Vice President and General Manager told Reuters, "We now believe by opening up all our content and unleashing what will be millions and millions of new documents, combined with phenomenal growth, that that will create a revenue stream that will more than exceed the subscription revenue."
I've always been a proponent of making information freely available, and am happy to see that the Times will be making all of their material available online without a subscription. I'd imagine that the columnists under TimesSelect are also quite happy to know that their work can now be e-mailed and blogged around cyberspace.