TimesDelete today, StribDelete tomorrow?

Mickey Kaus has been having lots of fun with the new TimesSelect $49.95 subscription barrier that has been placed between Times online readers and Times op-ed columnists such as Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd. When I first read about the idea, my reaction was that I would pay extra for the Times online without columnists Krugman, Dowd, and Rich. Now I get that package for which I would have paid extra for free, only with David Brooks unfairly included among his colleagues. On Sunday Kaus posted a more creative variation of the idea that would address that unfairness:

It seems to me…that the NYT is missing an obvious, lucrative marketing angle. It would be a variant of the idea my college friend Mark had for a Reverse Record Store–you’d go and pay them $11.99 and they’d take your money and use it (along with the $11.99 payments of others) to bribe Paul McCartney to not make an album that year. Similarly, imagine TimesDelete: for $19.95 a month, say, TimesDelete’s premium subscribers could vote on one op-ed columnist to take an extended vacation. If more people picked Krugman rather than Brooks, Krugman would get his salary plus a bonus on the condition that he maintain a meaningful silence for several weeks. The race would be tight every month, I should imagine, with Republicans and Democrats trying to outvote each other. But you can’t play if you don’t pay! I’d say this is surefire, supplemental revenue stream would bring in way more than the puny $20 or $30 million dollars a year the Times might hope to make from TimesSelect, especially if the business model were extended to the news pages. Adam Nagourney–your ship has come in!…

Kaus also noted that he didn’t think:

…that the Times columnists–Dowd, and Krugman, anyway–will lose their audience the way LAT entertainment critics lost their audience when they were put behind a subscription wall. But that’s in large part because Dowd’s column, and others, will almost certainly be posted unofficially on various free websites. When the NYT’s lawyers shut down one–Dowdster!–another will pop up. That may be why the NYT execs feel they have to also have the columnists do something extra for TimesSelect customers in addition to writing columns. John Tierney is going to run a book club. Thomas Friedman is going to answer his email! Nicholas Kristof will come to your house and bake a cake…

This morning Kaus notes:

Yesterday’s “TimesSelect” op-ed columns are already available for free

Today’s circumvention of the premium wall comes with an assist from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Which leads me to the thought that the Star Tribune itself is missing out on a tremendous marketing opportunity with StarTribunedelete, a premium feature that would not be subject to the same kind of short-circuit.


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