A day after the Times debuted its new, slimmed-down format, the Post today reports that the Gray Lady is set to shed something else: TimesSelect. As soon as some technical kinks are worked out, Murdoch's paper says, the two-year-old experiment will end and your Maureen Dowd will, once again, be gloriously free. So what to think of its brief life? Is TimesSelect slightly random in its border delineation, unfair to op-ed columnists, and above all annoyingly orange? Sure. But is it a failure? Not exactly.
The subscription numbers the Post is trying to pawn off as a recent, disastrous decline don't really read as such: There were 224,000 TimesSelect subscribers in April and 221,000 in June — still about 100,000 up from 2005. Most of all, the movable "paywall," as opposed to an all-free or an all-paid site, was a ballsy real-time experiment through which the entire confused industry is figuring out who's willing to pay how much for what kind of content. Even if the gospel is that free is better (Murdoch has mused that he might do away with fees at WSJ.com, with almost a million paying subscribers), you can't fault the Times for trying. Someone's got to figure out how to pay the bills once everyone stops buying the printed paper.