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TimesSelect On the Bubble? Yes, No, Maybe

The NY Post uses an unflattering image of Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to accompany an equally unflattering story suggesting that premium service TimesSelect may be on the way out. (Hard not to think this is some kind of return salvo for the recent unflattering Murdoch portrayals in the NYT’s’ coverage of Dow Jones-News Corp. but it could just be business as usual for the tab.) The basics re the NYP: Some people at NYTCo want to see TimesSelect disappear, Sulzberger and CEO Janet Robinson are champions of the concept, a decision to pull the plug would be a black eye for Sulzberger, the NYT spokeswoman didn’t sound “enthusiastic” enough in her (emailed) response.

Not quite sure what prompted this now. The dissent from within about TimesSelect is nothing new. Could NYTCo shut it down? Yes. Programs start and stop all the time. Look at CNN’s Pipeline switch, for instance, and any number of subscription efforts we’ve covered here, including the Newstracker subscription that preceded TimesSelect. I’m sure some people are surprised it’s lasted nearly two years and I know its existence drives some people absolutely batty. It’s been tweaked a number of times, most recently to provide free access to students and academics. TimesSelect is making money from subscriptions and advertising; it’s also a value add for print subscriptions, which just went up in price. Still, the company could decide it could make more from advertising alone, emphasizing traffic instead of the quality of the TimesSelect audience for an ad buy. (I’m not sure how well that idea has done; I could have missed something but I only see one TimesSelect-specific offer in the online media kit and that has to do with the twice-weekly weekend preview emails.)

NYTCo spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said the comment she sent the NYPost could stand: “While TimesSelect is very popular and we have certainly met and exceeded our goals since it began in 2005, we continue to evaluate the best approach to our business.”

The company’s 2Q07 earnings and June ad stats are due Wednesday so we’ll get an update on TimesSelect numbers then. As of May, TimesSelect had about 741,000 subs with roughly 60 percent getting it as part of their print subscription, 30 percent though online only, and 10 percent through free subs as students or academics.

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