The Times unlocks its content

The New York Times announced that they’re killing the subscription requirement to access their columnists effective at midnight tonight.

It’s about time.

I’ve written before about the absurdity of the Times buying AdWords to promote its content while locking its most link-worthy content behind a pay wall.

Search engines are a key driver of traffic to the Times and a key driver of the decision to make the content ad-supported. The vast majority of readers who visit the Times in a given month don’t visit the home page.

What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com. These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.

A letter to TimesSelect subscribers acknowledges the new landscape:

Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.

The Times is also unlocking its archives, offering much of the archived content for free. All of the archives from 1987 on and from 1851-1922 will be available for free. Content from 1923 to 1986 may have a charge. The Times has been charging nonsubscribers $4.95 per story accessed.

No word on whether this move also means that the Times will preserve value-added content online. The archived content typically does not include photos, charts, graphs and multimedia elements that appear online.

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is CEO of redesign | mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. His personal blog is at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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