The TimesSelect Reader: Summary


When the New York Times announced TimesSelect in 2005, the merry cynics among the media bloggers asserted that it would lose any or all of the following (1) money, (2) Google referrals, (3), influence, (4) respect in the blogosphere.

Most of those predictions were based on the assumption that TimesSelect would be a permanent change; that's no different from any other prediction. It lasted only two years. Still, many commentators stuck by their original assessments, and few put forth data. This series aimed to extract the data. Here are the findings.

  • Money. I didn't have access the internal statistics. I looked at the audience numbers. The Nielsen/NetRatings numbers showed an increase of 27%, which bested many of their competitors. In addition, he overall NYTCO financials showed that online advertising may finally make up for lost print revenue, though it won't this year, and did not in the previous year. (see Part 2 and Part 4) [Note: an earlier version of this paragraph mentioned 133% — that was the increase in search engine referrals.]

  • Google referrals. as a whole benefited tremendously over the last two years from basic search engine optimization. The numbers revealed that the references from Google had doubled. The worry that the paywall had prevented Google from indexing was unfounded. Google had already indexed the Times archives. It was simply that it was Google's policy was not to make it available in the regular web search – even though they had done so for other journals. (Part 5)

  • Influence. There is no concrete measure for influence as there is for the above two. I counted the number of references from the blogs to fifty popular political columnists & bloggers. According to data from Google Blog Search, the references to the 7 Times Op-Ed columnists grew by eight times, while the sample set grew by ten times. Still, the Times's top three stars (Friedman, Krugman, Brooks) remained in the top 7 sports. (Part 1)

  • Respect in the blogosphere. Yes, the Times lost respect in the blogosphere. But that says as much about the blogosphere as it does the Times. (Part 3)

Influence is the most interesting of the set – and, as compared to the first two, difficult to measure. I made an attempt to do so from the raw blog references. The data by itself doesn't whether the references were positive or negative. I could only assume, in the immortal words of Oscar Wilde, that “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” If Glenn Greenwald blogs that Tom Friedman is  “one of the most frivolous, dishonest, morally bankrupt public intellectuals burdening this country,” that probably won't look good a book jacket. But perhaps it had the perverse effect of making people pay more attention to Friedman. I invite the next researcher to try and estimate which references were positive and which were negative – and furthermore to see what effect it has on readership.

I'll have a look at the concept of influence to close this series.