The Times They Ain't A-Changin'

The post Brad Plumer's trying to link to was originally on Pandagon, but since he's unearthing it for the latest round of NYT subscription stories, might as well reprint it here:

I've been meaning to say a word about the reports that the New York Times might move towards online subscriptions. And the word I've been meaning to say is: bull. None of the major papers can move to subscription based reporting first. If the New York Times does it, newly-locked out infojunkies will seamlessly switch to trolling the LA Times, or the Washington Post. Aside from their columnists, the Times offers little in the way of exclusive content, and what they do offer isn't of significantly higher quality (if, indeed, it is of higher quality) than what's proffered by their competitors. To erect a wall when the same product is being distributed for free across the street just isn't smart business.

As an addendum, the Times doesn't necessarily need to switch to subscriptions. I know we're supposed to believe they do, but I was at a conference with the director of their online efforts and he bristled whenever "old media" guys mocked the business prospects of the net and angrily repeated that the Times had been online for two years, and the net operation had been profitable the whole time (If I remember right, LexisNexis pays them $25 million a year to archive their content). So the question likely isn't one of breaking even, it's one of doing better. And unless they figure out some spectacular and heretofore unprovided content or services, such a move would serve only to destroy whatever green they're currently eking out by sending traffic, and thus ad rates, plummeting. Doesn't make sense.