Rumor has it that the New York Times is abandoning its pay-only Times Select experiment. Let’s hope so.

The New York Times is poised to stop charging readers for online access to its Op-Ed columnists and other content, The Post has learned.

After much internal debate, Times executives – including publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. – made the decision to end the subscription-only TimesSelect service but have yet to make an official announcement, according to a source briefed on the matter.

The timing of when TimesSelect will shut down hinges on resolving software issues associated with making the switch to a free service, the source said.

Personally this wasn’t a huge deal, because we subscribe to the Sunday Times and get TimesSelect access thrown in as part of the deal.

But as a blogger it was very annoying, since nobody likes being linked to content they can’t read. That led to three options: annoy my readers, don’t blog about Select stories and columns, or quote so much of the story that it defeated the purpose of the firewall (and left me open to charges of copyright violation). It was especially annoying when I would read something in the dead-tree version that I wanted to write about, only to discover that the online version was in SelectLand.

Because I had access, I referred to TimesSelect articles when necessary. But I’m sure many, many people simply learned to live without the content — and their lives were not noticeably poorer because of it.

The Wall Street Journal has the same problem with its Online Journal service. It’s good content, but not so good that I can’t live without it. The result is that WSJ content gets a lot less consideration in my blogging than it would otherwise.

I fully sympathize with both the Times and the Journal and all online publications, who are still trying to find ways to get people to pay for high-quality content. As bloggers, we’re in the same boat — and the lack of paying customers is why most of us do this as a hobby rather than a profession. The $30 or so I’ve earned on Midtopia in the last year doesn’t exactly pay the bills.

(continued over at Midtopia)

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