Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Edsel. New Coke. Times Select.

Thanks for the link, Slate.

Next week, the New York Times will start charging to read their opinion columnists.

No, really, I'm serious.

For $50 per year, you too can have the grand privilege of reading Maureen Dowd's tortured efforts to make her political opinions seem insightful through the use of Sex In The City metaphors. You can read Bob Herbert bemoan racism in this country by deconstructing every action by the government, the private sector, and individuals through the prism of race. (Bob is unaware, apparently, of irony. Hypocrisy too, for that matter.) Frank Rich is included with that $50, and worth every penny too. Where else can you find someone who will blame Bush for everything wrong in the world, up to and including someone eating the last jelly-filled doughnut in the break room? Did I mention Tom Friedman? Operators are standing by! Without this subscription you will miss the chance to read Friedman continually over-reach by wandering out of his area of expertise, foreign affairs, particularly the Middle East, and playing on the freeway of domestic politics and economics. And speaking of economics, we can't leave out Paul Krugman. Hell, he is worth the $50 alone. I mean, where else can you pay so little to witness someone make a complete jackass out of himself in public? The only thing left for this guy to do is to date Divine Brown or attempt to jump the Snake River on a motorcycle.

Krugman is walking proof that an economist is the only profession in which a person can be wrong all the time and never lose his job. He should have told the Times about the elasticity of demand and suggested they pay us to read these hacks.

And an update, via Mickey Kaus:

Calame vs. Krugman: It's taken NYT Paul Krugman only four months to alienate incoming Times ombudsman Byron Calame to such a degree that Calame is taking the argument public, having posted an item complaining that the NYT "Columnist Correction Policy Isn't Being Applied to Krugman." The previous ombudsman, Daniel Okrent, waited until the end of his tenure to do that. ... Krugman must be a joy to deal with! And he'll be in an even less prickly mood next week when he has to effectively offer a supplemental-reading Web seminar on finance to TimeSelect subscribers!

More from Mr. Kaus:

Premium Discontent at the NYT: "No one has argued that we shouldn't do this," says New York Times editorial page editor Gail Collins regarding TimesSelect, the plan under which non-subscribers will now have to pay $49.95/year to read NYT op-ed columnists. Hmmm. One wonders: Has Collins talked to Maureen Dowd? .... P.S.: I actually don't think 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. ... P.P.S.: It seems to me, though, 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!


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