After putting their highest profile columnists behind the paid TimesSelect wall the New York Times has now made the email addresses for those writers unavailable for non-paying members as well. This follows the Washington Post turning off comments on their blogs.
I don’t mean to be too blunt here but what are these publications thinking? So much of what the web has become is about conversation and contact, be it in the form of comments, trackbacks or blog communities that have sprung up. This sort of “we can talk to you but you can’t talk to us” attitude is very much a digression from the point we’ve reached in terms of transparency and communication.
Now in the case of The Washington Post there is a political issue that led ombudsman Deborah Howell to turn off comments. She and others felt there were inappropriate remarks being made and so, instead of just implementing a tighter filter on comments, they disabled the feature altogether. That’s wrong in my view but the political component may have tainted the situation a bit.
What the New York Times did by taking their columnists’ email addresses behind the paid wall is just an example of old-media thinking. Unless you can pony up for the TimesSelect content, something which not everyone can do, you can’t contact the writers. That’s a loss not only for those hoping to talk to the NYT writers in some way but also for the writers themselves since they’ve had a valuable spiggot of information turned off.