Minutes after Times spokespersons had confirmed published reports the company was set to stop charging readers for access to parts of its Web site, the online version of the newspaper published an article by its own media reporter, Richard Perez-Pena, in which Times brass explained the move.
Much of the lead of the article was devoted to vindicating the Times' decision exactly two years ago to institute a paywall for access to its 23 news and opinion columnists' work, as well as to much of the Times' archived news material.
According to the report, the Times drew 227,000 subscribers to its 'Times Select' program, generating $10 million in revenue.
But that revenue, according to Times brass, was competing against potential revenue from increased page views and the advertising dollars those page views could generate. It's a problem more than one news Web site has encountered before, and the article quotes one media analyst who opined that there was little to choose between the potential ad revenue from increasing the size of an audience and making a smaller audience pay directly to read.
Then there's this of course:
Many readers lamented their loss of access to the work of the 23 news and opinion columnists of The Times — as did some of the columnists themselves. Some of those writers have such ardent followings that even with access restricted, their work often appeared on the lists of the most e-mailed articles.
Experts say that opinion columns are unlikely to generate much ad revenue, but that they can drive a lot of reader traffic to other, more lucrative parts of The Times site, like topic pages devoted to health and technology.