For seven days starting Nov. 6, The New York Times website is opening the gates to Mr. Krugman and the other columnists usually locked behind the TimesSelect pay wall, once again letting far-flung visitors and local cheapskates read the paper's high-priced talent for free. Philips Electronics is sponsoring the promotion as part of its "Sense and Simplicity" ad campaign.
It's the first open house for TimesSelect, which The Times created in September 2005 to prop up circulation revenue. Times Select is free for print subscribers and costs everyone else $49.95 a year or $7.95 a month.
TimesSelect has been controversial since the start, when irritated bloggers and others predicted that the product would flop, alienate web surfers or both. Popular columnists such as Mr. Krugman, Maureen Dowd and Thomas L. Friedman saw their appearances on the most-e-mailed list drop away dramatically. The Times never made its specific goals public, so it is impossible to say whether TimesSelect has met the paper's own expectations.
But the service has steadily grown. Print subscribers who also use TimesSelect have grown to about 358,000 now from 234,000 at the end of last year; web-only members paying for TimesSelect have grown to about 192,000 from 156,000 at the end of last year.
Philips will take credit for the open house with animated ads on the site and in a print-and-web package called "Simplify New York City," intended to help people get around more easily. Separately, Philips also arranged to give commuters 100,000 free copies of The Week magazine this morning.
The Philips "Sense and Simplicity" campaign has included other creative media efforts, like buying all the national commercial time on one "60 Minutes" episode and returning 12 minutes to CBS -- giving viewers longer segments and fewer breaks. The company also arranged for Hearst Magazines to ship four titles in September without the annoying subscription cards and tried, without success, to buy and eliminate all the cinema ads before a movie.
Despite the campaign's warm reception in the U.S., the company put its global account for media strategy and buying into review last month, saying the effort wasn't translating well elsewhere around the world. Aegis Group's Carat last month said it will defend the account.