Posted by: Jon Fine on October 17, 2008
Andrew Rosenthal, who’s run the Times’ editorial page since January of last year, spoke at lunch at the ANA convention today. And, if I may be simultaneously self-interested and lazy, my wife and mediabistro.com founder Laurel Touby twittered his whole speech, which you should check out—it currently starts on this page. As for me, I buttonholed him after lunch with a simple question:
Why did Times Select—the paper’s abortive attempt to charge readers for online access to its columnist—fail?
He said: “It couldn’t get big enough.”
I said: 700,000 customers (the figure Rosenthal used in his speech--although others have reported that not all of them were paying full freight--isn’t big enough?
He said: “It’s OK, but it’s a week’s worth of readers for Maureen Dowd. I said, ‘I want all of our readers back.’”
Shortly after this, I made a (lame and overused) joke about how I was blogging directly from my pen and paper, since, you know, information wants to be free. To which he had a quick response:
“Information is not free! Nothing online is free except for what we do, not email"-- not exactly true, that--"not shoes, not pornography . . . I know I sound very Pollyannaish. But [what we do is important]"
Well, sure, I agreed. But how could you possibly start charging people to read the nytimes.com now?
“Maybe ten years ago we [as in, many newspapers and other content sites] could have done something--held hands and jumped off the cliff together.
It’s the biggest mistake we ever made.”
The media, entertainment and marketing worlds continue to shapeshift on a near-daily basis, as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. Where is it all going? No one really knows. But on this blog BusinessWeek’s media writers Tom Lowry and Ron Grover promise to provide ample helpings of scoop, provocation, and sharp analysis as they track and annotate this constantly changing terrain.