The NYT should adopt the time-tested marketing approach so often employed by drug dealers, 'the first taste is always free'.
TimeSelect was an unmitigated disaster that hurt the brand and lessened the influence its Op-Ed staff have outside of their little Manhattan cocktail circles. Thankfully, they've ended that sad experiment (but the damage to their talent remains), but they're sitting on another potential disaster if they don't do something about it.
Prof. Althouse has started a new project, with a lot of potential, but only if the NYT gets wise. She's blogging the past as if there were blogs back then, taking a random year, and blogging the events of that date as covered in the NYT. Its an interesting concept and would foster interesting conversations, but only if everyone can see the articles she's linking to. Right now, .edu customers get 100 articles per month free, and NYT subscribers get unlimited access to the basic archive, but for everyone else, there's only a link telling you to shell out $3.95 to have a little peek at a musty old article from decades ago (1851-1922 are available, and since 1987, but 1923-1986 will cost you). I don't think too many people are going to be doing that.
So what would a drug dealer do?
He'd (or she'd) give out a taste for free, of course. Get people hooked on the idea that there's fascinating stuff to be mined by seeing the past as it was seen contempraneously. If I were working at the NYT I'd find a way to either bring Althouse's THE TIME THAT BLOG FORGOT directly in with all the other NYT blogs, or at least point to the posts each day. She's written Op-Eds for them, so they've had a working relationship in the past, but this project has started out as a freelance project that she's doing just as an interesting challenge and a new way to look at things (plus its a good excuse to put up that gorgeous picture of her younger self). Besides bringing the blog directly under the NYT (but don't get heavy-handed and exert any editorial control, or I suspect the good Professor would balk), the other brilliant thing to do would be to make access to the articles she links each day absolutely free to any and everybody.
Shouldn't be that hard to do that without creating a backdoor to sneak into the rest of the archive, and as people get curious about the way the past looked when it was the present, they might be compelled to start finding articles of personal interest and go ahead and splurge on the $14.95 a month (or $169 annually) for access to TimesReader (which also gives access to the archives), or even better for them, might spur people to actually subscribe to the dead tree edition (which also grants access to the archive, here in the 90404 area code it's $25 a month for home delivery).
They have a choice, be smart and act like a drug dealer, or be dumb and act like a music executive (and we all know how well holding the line against MP3s and file sharing went in that industry).
Which will it be Grey Lady?
AND . . .
(just cause it was playing in my head while thinking of this analogy, but come on NYT be 'my man' and give me a 'sweet taste')