Reason #44 (at least) Times Select will have a tough time surviving.
This week, the Times proudly announced a new blog. This one's by the Freakonomics partners Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt. Basically, they've brought their Freakonomics blog to the Times. In an interview, Dubner said he was happy with the Times' home, and agreed to it with an important term: that it not be put into Times Select, firewalled away from public access.
"As much as I love The Times, I didn’t want to be part of TimesSelect,” said Mr. Dubner. “That would have been the only deal-breaker," he told the New York Observer.
So you can see the handwriting growing larger here. The Times is smartly moving beyond its stable of high-end staff columnists, picking and choosing intriguing voices on the web and stamping them with the Times brand. This may be the first "outside" blog licensed by the Times, but expect others to soon follow. In fact, the Times has appointed an editor, Melissa Lafsky, previously of The Huffington Post, for the blog, and we would presume work beyond solely Freakonomics.
That's an essential long-term strategy for all significant news players on the web. Most writers, and I believe, many reporters, will become free agents, contracting with major distributors like the Times, search aggregators like Yahoo, MSN and Google, and niche sites of many kinds.
As they do that -- and as the Times competes for their services -- Dubner's insistence on being on the open web would be heard often. The fact that Freakonomics is out on the open web, and Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd are not has got to further fry them. So let the countdown continue.