The New York Times announced yesterday that they would discontinue their TimesSelect online subscription program and open up nearly all of their content to the online world for free.
For $49.95 a year, subscribers had access to the paper’s columnists’ articles and the archives. There will be fees "for some [archive] material from the period 1923 to 1986."
Though TimesSelect had 227,000 paying subscribers from a base of 787,000 users, and earned the paper about $10 million a year in revenue, the volume of abandoned visitors from the search engines convinced the Times that they would make more money through online advertising than they would through web site subscription fees.
NYTimes.com gets 13 million unique visitors a month and figure they can use that volume coupled with registered user demographics and visitor behavior statistics to offer advertisers the ability to buy behaviorally-targeted advertising.
I’ve got to think that the decision to optimize the site for search engine marketing coupled with the buying of search engine keyword ads for breaking news helped drive traffic to the site. When they looked at their bounce rate–the percentage of users who abandoned the site when they bumped up against the paid content wall–they realized the pure advertising revenue model might just work.
I would not be surprised if the Times’ next step would be to make more of their content embeddable and shareable online to drive traffic from blogs and online bookmark services and to add a commenting feature to articles to encourage visitors to stay at the site longer.