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Blogosphere triumphalism

You've probably heard that the New York Times has decided to stop offering its Op-Ed section for free on the web. Starting soon, if you want to read Krugman, Dowd, et. al., you'll have to either buy the print version of the paper or pony up $50 a year for web access.

The blogger consensus seems to be that the NYT has just made themselves obsolete:

"'More papers are looking at the approach The New York Times is taking -- keeping most of their content free but cherry-picking some content for a subscriptions service,' acknowledged Steve Outing, an E&P columnist and expert on online news, in the Globe. But, he added, '[t]hese days there are thousands of bloggers and news aggregators talking about the issues these columnists write about. If you put them behind a firewall, they might disappear from those discussions.'

"Certainly two prominent bloggers feel that way. Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, who runs the liberal blog Daily Kos, told Salon that he'll stop linking to Times Op-Eds once the new policy goes into effect. 'I think this is the best way they can become irrelevant,' he said.

"If my readers can't read it, why would I link to it? The key to blogging is that readers can look at the source material and make up their own minds.' And conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan used the headline, 'The NYT Withdraws From the Blogosphere,' Salon reported. 'The great gift that the New York Times gives the world is free access to its articles, opinion-journalists, and stories,' Sullivan wrote on his blog. '[B]y sectioning off their op-ed columnists and best writers, they are cutting them off from the life-blood of today's political debate: the free blogosphere. Inevitably, fewer people will link to them; fewer will read them; their influence will wane faster than it has already.'"

A link-free existence?? Maybe MoDo & Co. can ask for donations, like Sullivan, and start their own blog.

It's hard not to see this as just more blogger chest-thumping. Undoubtedly, this will dent the influence of the NYT among bloggers and people who read blogs; I'm not convinced that it dooms them to total irrelevance, though.

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