If the New York Times was wondering how much a long-time, loyal customer would spend on one of its online initiatives, it’s about to find out.
I’ve been a Times Reader beta tester for pretty much the life of the experiment, but I haven’t used the product much at all. I had difficulty with it early on — the full functionality wouldn’t load and the customer service involved in reporting the problem was, well, beta. Also, it struck me as more of a toy than a useful device for reading the Times online.
However, the note I received today from Rob Larson, VP of product management and development for NYTimes.com, thanked me for my input during the free (I considered that the warning) beta period. “You and your fellow beta testers have been a great help in the development of Times Reader,” Larson wrote (but I didn’t take it personally).
Well, the good times are over: The beta period will be ending in two weeks. Times Reader will relaunch as a subscription service on March 27. I am not counting the days.
Times Reader will cost $14.95 a month or $165 a year. It will include access to TimesSelect (which I currently receive at a $25 academic rate — I understand that’s about to be waived, although I haven’t received THAT note yet) and Premium Crosswords.
Times Reader will be free to home delivery subscribers, which I am not. I used to get the Sunday Times delivered in print out of habit, but the delivery was inconsistent and I finally gave up a few years ago.
Among the improvements the Times promises to the reader: easier navigation (I’m sure Jakob Nielsen will have something to say about that), more keyboard shortcuts, and a seven-day archive. My reward for being a beta tester: If I sign up before March 27, I’ll receive 14 months for the price of 12.
Thanks, but no thanks. You’ve reached my green ceiling.
If you want to learn more, there’s a Times Reader e-mail newsletter.
I trust this will not ultimately impact my free access to the Times online. But if content wants to be free, it’s very clear to me that the New York Times disagrees.