TimesSelect Free For Students, Faculty, Acquantainces . . .

The NYT has decided to make “TimesSelect,” their system of putting their least essential content behind a subscription wall so bloggers won’t read and comment on it, free to university students and faculty. Since I am no longer a member of either of those groups, I’m still out of luck. Or in luck, I can’t decide.

Or am I?

Steven Taylor, who is regardless now entitled to free access by virtue of his faculty status, allows as to how he might “be inclined to read some of it again” and suggests that this might be a “way to let a lot of bloggers promote the NYT’s columnists while still charging most folks.” Steve Bainbridge agrees, although he thinks it’s a diabolical plot to “hook” impressionable young minds–albeit one doomed to fail.

Ultimately, though, since all that’s required to get free access is to enter a valid .edu email address, the gates are rather wide open. As Ben Wolfson reports, after exhaustive scientific study, “as far as I can tell, the Times has given free TS access to people with college- or university-affiliated email addresses, and everyone they know.” His colleague, Fontana Labs, thinks this is not an accident. Citing Mickey Kaus, he observes,

this is just a convenient way of phasing out Times Select, which I suspect is the real motivation. When the paywall went up, I went through a week of wondering what Paul Krugman was saying, but then all the pangs of withdrawal went away and I realized that I didn’t miss the content very much at all. Given the level of blog sophistication right now, Friedman and Dowd are a hard sell.

I do suspect that the loophole is a feature, not a bug.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anyone familiar with Bugmenot? The real test will be if Bugmenot puts up passwords to let anyone and their brother who is smart enough to use it, and the NYT doesn’t disable access through those .edu emails.

    If you need to do more than just enter a .edu email (like originate from a .edu server that the NYT system recognizes, then I suspect that someone will put a gateway up at a college. I shouldn’t be hard. Basically the commands you click on would be passed through to the NYT and the results show up on your screen. The college might object to the bandwidth, but I suspect if the right person at the college wants it to happen, the “wrong people” will never know unless the fact is printed on the remains of a dead tree. Again, if the NYT doesn’t pull down the gateway, then this is a backhanded way of bringing down the wall.

    Assuming any or all of this is the case, the NYT would essentially be positioning themselves to garner money from the highly morale who would see it as stealing, the technologically inept who can’t see the backdoor but still want internet access enough to pay for it and those who would rather spend money than go through the minimal hassle ($50 a year will be an interesting price point to see what is diminimis and what is not). Not necessarily the biggest market segments to go after, though the third could be large if they have the right price point.

    Of course this may all be a Viacom ruse for them to get copyright material out there and then descend on those who have stolen their pixels.

  2. Michael says:

    Careful, making public a method to circumvent the restricted access to copyrighted material has run afoul of the DMCA in the past. After all, telling people how to avoid paying for NYT columnists is aiding terrorists.

  3. Bithead says:

    I think this is an admission on the part of the New York Times, that this misbegotten “select” idea of theirs, is a nonstarter. If it’s going to be a money loser, they may as will gain some kind of benefit off of it.

    What benefit?

    The political leanings of the New York Times are legendary. Offering their product to teachers and school age kids, seems an interesting way to get around restrictions on overtly political material.

    Imagine with me, if you will, an overtly right wing publication offering its product in a similar manner… what do you suppose the reaction would be?

    The timing of this move, also seems suspect; right at the bottom , the beginning, of the presidential election cycle for 08.

  4. I guess the choir wasn’t paying anyway.

  5. Jeff Q. says:

    Thanks for the heads-up. I just signed up.