Students now have free access to ‘New York Times’ online content

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (U-WIRE) – The New York Times is now allowing anyone with a “.edu” e-mail address to access its exclusive online TimesSelect content – free of charge.

Since TimesSelect was first unveiled in September 2005, readers have been required to subscribe to the print edition of The Times or pay for a online-only subscription in order to gain Web access to op-ed columns, article archives and other special features.

By waiving the $49.95 yearly online fee for readers affiliated with academic institutions – students in particular – the paper is aiming to boost readership among what it considers to be a crucial demographic and a group that is increasingly turning to the Web for its news.

“College students represent the next generation of Times readers,” said Times spokesperson Diane McNulty in a phone interview on Friday. “Reading the Times is a critical piece of any student’s intellectual development, and we want to make it readily available.”

TimesSelect was first introduced in 2005 as part of ongoing efforts by The Times to adapt to declining print sales and a surge in online readership. By limiting access to op-ed columns, archives and other exclusive features to paying customers, the paper hoped to secure a new source of revenue to support its news-gathering operations.

“It’s very expensive to have a Baghdad bureau and to send Thomas Friedman around the world to cover stories,” McNulty said. “It’s important to build new revenue streams and TimesSelect is one of the ways we were doing that.”

In 2006, TimesSelect raised $9.9 million in new revenue for the paper. As of January 2007, it counted 627,000 subscribers in its rolls. Of the 627,000, 34 percent had online-only subscriptions. The remainder received access as part of their home delivery subscriptions, McNulty said.

But many readers – including college students on notoriously tight budgets – were not pleased with The Times’ 2005 decision to charge for content.

“I read (The Times) every day,” said Chia N. Mustafa, a sophomore. “So I was kind of pissed off – news should be accessible to everyone.”

In the year and a half since TimesSelect was first introduced, the newspaper has continued to adapt to a business model that is increasingly reliant upon the Internet. Among Times readers on campus, the paper’s recent decision to stop charging students has been well received.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Aimee C. Dobrowski, a senior, who had been relying upon her father’s subscription to gain access to TimesSelect. “I’m sorry I am only going to be able to take advantage of it for one year.”

Benjamin K. Glaser, a sophomore, said he was slightly wary of what free access would mean for his work habits.

“Now I’ll be able to waste even more time while sort of being able to justify it because it’s kind of educational. I can procrastinate, with Nick Kristof and Tom Friedman to help,” Glaser said, referring to two of the paper’s better known columnists.

McNulty said that opening up TimesSelect to college students is just one of many ways the paper has been attempting to reach out to the college-age demographic. New York Times journalists regularly visit campuses, and the paper has been promoting ways to integrate the newspapers into classrooms.

In addition, The Times is also currently running a “Win a trip with Nick Kristof” promotion, whereby The Times‘ columnist will personally pick one college student and one high school or middle school teacher to accompany him on a trip to Africa, where they will engage in on-the-ground reporting of issues of poverty and development.