TimesSelect, for the uninitiated, is the year-and-a-half-old pay wall around columnists and certain other content on The Times' website. About 400,000 of the paper's print subscribers have signed up for the free access that comes with their subscriptions; about 217,000 non-subscribers are paying for access.
"While this is obviously an attempt to get college students hooked on a national newspaper, I think the unintended result will be that college grads like me start giving the $40/year to their alumni association," one blogger wrote on Due Torre. "I'll get a couple of decent lectures, a couple of mediocre advertisements, a free .edu email address and a TimesSelect subscription to boot."
'Another nail in the coffin'
"If you assume that a large majority of NYT readers outside New York are college grads (a fair assumption), then the fact that a surprising number of colleges offer .edu addresses to their alumni could be another nail in the coffin of the much-criticized TimesSelect," he said.
Mickey Kaus from Slate linked to that post, saying The Times might not even mind if every college grad in the world started reading TimesSelect without paying.
"For one thing, it will make Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd happy. (They'll get bigger audiences.)" Mr. Kaus wrote. "For another, it gives the paper a graceful way to effectively abandon its whole ill-conceived pay-for-opinions plan while maintaining it as a formal fiction -- just as Bed, Bath & Beyond maintains the fiction that you only get 20% off if you have a coupon (even as it distributes coupons so freely that basically everyone has four or five lying on the floor of their car)."
But the Times said it doesn't believe most alumni will cheat. "It's an honor system," said Vivian Schiller, senior VP-general manager, NYTimes.com. "And we're assuming that the alumni of this nation's colleges and universities have a thorough enough education in ethics to keep them honest.
"Our business model for TimesSelect was never about students," Ms. Schiller added. "In our perpetual state of re-evaluating our businesses, we just decided that it made more sense to open the content up to students for two reasons. One, we really wanted to get students really talking about critical issues. And secondly, this is a great way for us to build more loyalty among the next generation of New York Times consumers.
"There are about 16, 17 million enrolled college and university students today," she said. "So there's the opportunity."