Prediction: This will hurt the NYT immeasurably. Even if they get a satsifactory number of people to pay — my doubt runneth over on this point — the divide between liberals and conservatives will be enormous. The New York Times, which has been fighting — or claiming to — the image that it’s a “blue state” newspaper will reinforce that impression to the nth degree. There are people in the world who will pay to read Krugman and Dowd (and in a more caring America their medication would be paid for by the government). But virtually none of them are conservatives. The Times op-ed page will become largely invisible to those who disagree with it. This will in turn only amplify the echo chamber effect. Krugman will think the country’s coming to its senses because he’ll stop getting hate mail. Poor David Brooks will mostly get harsh feedback (people who read print editions email reactions much, much less than e-readers). The Times’ status as an agenda setter will drop as producers and scribblers will be less likely to be reading online (if they’re smart, the Times will give out thousands of free electronic subsriptions to journalists).
Look, I want charging for web content to work. It’d help us a lot. But I am delighted the Times is the one charging the machine gun nest.