I just got this email from The New York Times:
Dear TimesSelect Subscriber,
We are ending TimesSelect, effective today.
The Times’s Op-Ed and news columns are now available to everyone free of charge, along with Times File and News Tracker. In addition, The New York Times online Archive is now free back to 1987 for all of our readers.
Why the change?
Since we launched TimesSelect, the Web has evolved into an increasingly open environment. Readers find more news in a greater number of places and interact with it in more meaningful ways. This decision enhances the free flow of New York Times reporting and analysis around the world. It will enable everyone, everywhere to read our news and opinion – as well as to share it, link to it and comment on it.
We thank you for your support of TimesSelect, and hope you continue to enjoy The New York Times in all its electronic and print forms.
The spin here is that times have changed while The Times has not. This is worse than misleading. It’s delusional. Yes, “the Web has evolved”. But it had already evolved to a state where charging for archival editorial was a bad idea, long before Times Select was created. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bloggers and smart publishing professionals had the clues, and kindly passed them along to the Times, which chose instead to remain insular and clueless.
Is it still? Follow the money. The “evolution” that matters here is the rise in the advertising money river, which now flows away from traditional media and into the Google Sea. As that river rises past flood stage, newspapers stand in its midst, guarding their precious “content” within dungeons behind paywalls, peering down from the parapets as the flood fills the moats and washes the foundations away.
Inside Fort Business
Somewhere along the line, we confused going to work with building a fort.
Strip away the financial jibber-jabber and the management corpo-speak, and here’s our fundamental image of business:
- It’s in an imposing office building that towers over the landscape.
- Inside is everything we need.
- And that’s good because the outside is dangerous. We are under siege by our competitors, and even by our partners and customers. Thank God for the thick, high walls!
- The king rules. If we have a wise king, we prosper.
- The king has a court. The dukes, viscounts, and other subluminaries each receive their authority from the king. (The king even countenances an official fool. Within limits.)
- We each have our role, our place. If we each do the job assigned to us by the king’s minions, our fort will beat all those other stinking forts.
- And then we will have succeeded — or, thinking it’s the same thing, we will say we have “won.” We get to dance a stupid jig while chanting “Number one! Number one!”
This fort is, at its heart, a place apart. We report there every morning and spend the next eight, ten, or twelve hours inaccessible to the “real” world. The portcullis drops not only to keep out our enemies, but to separate us from distractions such as our families. As the drawbridge goes up behind us, we become businesspeople, different enough from our normal selves that when we first bring our children to the office, they’ve been known to hide under our desk, crying.
Within this world, the Web looks like a medium that exists to allow Fort Business to publish online marketing materials and make credit card sales easier than ever. Officially, this point of view is known as “denial.”
The Web isn’t primarily a medium for information, marketing, or sales. It’s a world in which people meet, talk, build, fight, love, and play. In fact, the Web world is bigger than the business world and is swallowing the business world whole. The vague rumblings you’re hearing are the sounds of digestion.
The change is so profound that it’s not merely a negation of the current situation. You can’t just put a big “not” in front of Fort Business and say, “Ah, the walls are coming down.” No, the true opposite of a fort isn’t an unwalled city.
It’s a conversation.
As anybody who has ever tried to get a letter to the editor of the Times can tell you, the paper is not conversational. And hell, maybe it shouldn’t be. But that doesn’t mean it can’t, or shouldn’t, at least listen.
It’s time for the Times (and other papers) to put their ears, rather than just their walls, to the ground.
[Later…] Rob Paterson nails it on the subject of both relationships and what’s really scarce. Good stuff.
Comments are now closed.