2006_1_timesselect1.jpgUh-oh! Does anyone have a feeling that the free, ad-supported version of the New York Times might soon go the way of the dodo? Check out this article from Editor and Publisher:

About 156,000 people have signed up and paid a special online fee to read The New York Times' columnists since the paper launched its TimesSelect service four months ago, the paper reported Tuesday. Those readers are among a total of 390,000 who have signed up for the Web feature, which includes print subscribers who have free access to the online columns, but must register.

"We've always said that if we could get a couple of hundred thousand in the first year, that would be good," said Len Apcar, editor in chief of NYTimes.com, the paper's Web site, which launched the service Sept. 19. "That's very good for January."

At $8 bucks per month, those 150k people are only generating about $15 million per year, but the limited success of Times Select indicates that a pay-for-reading model might work at some papers-- particularly at leading news sites like the Times or the Wall Street Journal. How long will it be until other sections start vanishing behind the Times Select paywall? Business will probably go first, then the weekend features... and finally everything except a few lead stories every day. Oh well-- free news was good while it lasted. Get ready to kiss $50 bucks goodbye!