Big names

In London’s competitive market, newspapers are fighting over columnists with “editors buying up big-name columnists as if they were footballers: in an age when news no longer sells newspapers, columnists are the miracle ingredient that can win you readers.” Meanwhile, here, The Times hides its columnists behind a wall, which may milk their value today but won’t build their value or enable them to create new stars tomorrow.

  • In the age of citizen journalism, who cares about “big name” columnists? To hell with all of them. They aren’t worth the money in this flooded market of bloggers who are just as good, if not better, at providing commentary and digging up local facts. Goes to show you how different approaches on both sides of the Atlantic are equally as stupid. Journalistic egalitarianism will rule the day.

  • Is there any data on how many people are paying for TimesSelect?

  • Toblerone2

    This morning, I was commenting to my wife that the job of Radio DJ seems have been supplanted by either computer programming of songlists, or by syndicated morning shows which are (except for Howard Stern) regional in nature. Some older DJs have gone online to invent their own radio stations, so they can play what they want and be exempt from big brother (FCC).

    Perhaps the same thing will happen to columnists – we’ll get the best or most popular rising to the top, and we’ll get to read them online. Certainly I’m not going to buy a newspaper just on the basis of what columnists they happen to have hired.

  • The New York Times has an excellent strategy. The star columnists behind the wall are those who have the pull to bring paying readers over it. It’s disingenuous (or just hopeful?) to say these people are only accessible behind the TImes wall. Last I checked Friedman and Dowd had best-selling books and they are released into the free “wilds” every now and then. Meanwhile, the younger and/or small-name writers toil in the un-Select world with the hopes of building enough brand equity to one day get into the big leagues. It’s a great farm system of meritocracy and it will supply loyal and growing audiences for the Times on both sides of the wall for generations to come.

  • Hector, what have you been smoking.

  • Times reports 170,000 subscribers to Times select, with about 60% getting it as part of home delivery.

    Times select costs $50 per year as compared to about $600 in the NY metro area for paper.

  • brits don’t care about value. brits care about getting invited to the right parties.

  • Thanks Robert.

    So it looks like only 40%, or 68,000, pay up for this service. That is $3.4 million in added annual revenue.

    Wall Street is expecting $3.4 billion in yearly revenue for the NYT this year.

    So TimesSelect adds incrementally about 1/1000 of the total revenue.

    The dearth of business sense is absolutely astounding.

    But what do I know? Maybe hiding Dowd, Krugman, et al is a sound strategy for protecting the paper’s credibility?

  • “The star columnists behind the wall are those who have the pull to bring paying readers over it.”

    There are roughly 40,000,000 bloggers. Take just the top 0.1% cream of the crop. There are 40,000 of ’em. Now take the top 1% of that talent pool. You still have 400 bloggers.

    The NYTimes is like the real estate market. I think the tide of public opinion will switch fairly quickly once the readers find out that their once trendy Times subscription is a beacon of detachment on their doorstep.

  • The NY Times may be gaining subsctiption revenue from Times Select, but also losing ad revenue from a loss of visitors who used to go to both for the articles and the columnists, but have stopped going there at all since they put up the Pay Wall.

  • Not sure I agree that columnists have been made obsolete by us bloggers. I surf to blogospere quite widely and note that many of them take their cues from articles by leading journalists like Rawnsley, Jenkins, D’Ancona etc. The fact is newspapers still have a much higher profile than blogs and are generally more accessible e.g. you can’t log on so easily while travelling while reading a paper when doing so is still the best way to fill time while keeping the mind pleasantly active. Also reading from the screen is a pain compared to the-often small size- newspapers. The trade in columnists is set to continue for a fair few more years.

  • Pozdrowionka z bi?goraja :)