Something about this premium service on nytimes.com makes me uneasy. Although I love Boston, the Times just beats out the Boston Globe as a national and international newspaper. So as a subscriber to the Times, I think it’s a fantastic service – access to archives, personal clip file, extra editions, etc. I use its Trackers every day. As a pragmatist, I totally understand why the Times, a rational self-interested business, should do this – since they put their entire content out on the web freely, they’re probably forgoing gobs of money for people who might otherwise pay for it.
But as an internet user since the days of telnets and fingers and still in possession of some vestiges of a frontier mentality, I kinda wish it was free. I don’t even know how to justify my wish, it’s just a feeling, really. I can’t quite think it through. I also wonder if the Times might lose its “gold standard” status on the online world if it decided to make more of its services premium while its competitors did not. Do they need to keep everything free to keep their market share? Or will the quality of their reporting degrade if they continue to shed paying subscribers? Or should they simply rely more on banner ads and the like? How important are physical paper subscribers to their revenues?