Tuesday, September 18, 2007
My greatest wish has come true. At midnight tonight, the walls to TimesSelect, the New York Times pay service, come tumbling down. For nearly two years, Maureen Dowd and her pontificating stablemates have been locked way in indentured servitude available only to those willing to pay $49.95 a year. While there were ways around the barriers, I was not one of the lucky ones with a .edu mail address that could sneak under the Times Select fence.
The official reason for discontinuing the service is that NYT sees greater growth opportunities in online advertising revenue than in subscriptions. There is a lot of truth in this. While TimesSelect had a subscriber base of about 220,000 a year, these numbers were soft and not growing. Meanwhile the crown jewels of the Op-Ed page were becoming irrelevant because blogs and other web sources just quit quoting the NYT columnists.
Links are the coin of the realm in the online world. Horizontal links from news aggregators like Drudge Report and Gawker are valuable traffic drivers. Joel Achenbach states that horizontal readers driven in by outside pages are much more numerous than vertical readers that come to a newspaper’s web page and follow stories from the homepage. With Thomas Friedman and David Brooks not linkable, they became invisible. And the opposite of relevance is silence.
In honor of this storming of the virtual Bastille, I have liberated this picture of Maureen Dowd from the Washington Post picture archives. When if I first professed my intellectual lust for MoDo, I scanned in this picture from the WaPo Magazine article about her because I couldn’t find an electronic version of it anywhere. Finally I discovered that it was available from the WaPo Photo Store. They wanted $49.95 for an 8x10 glossy. For that kind of money I could have gotten a year’s worth of her words instead. I even tried to e-mail a licensing request to no avail. Instead I am force to resort to playing the fair use card as posting it as review and comment.
Like TimesSelect, this wonderful picture is invisible on the web, but much coveted. I have gotten GoogleHits from people searching for “Maureen Dowd playing chess.” Taken by the Pulitzer Prize winning Michael Williamson, the image succinctly captures the essence of Dowd. She is playful, but whip-smart. She is well-read but not mousy. Casual and earthy but sexy and aggressive, with a gleam in her eye that could cut you to the quick. What is not to like?
Now I will once again be able to hang on every one of her rapier sharp bon mots and relish every deadly accurate pop cultural reference. In the words of a famous orator: