End of an experiment, start of another at the NYT

So the rumours/unnamed sources had it right: The New York Times really is dropping Times Select. Not only that, they will also open their archives all the way back to 1987. From the announcement letter:

Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.

Many will be watching this new experiment. From a media business point of view, the interest is in how much ad revenue the Times can build from the increased traffic to the columnist pages and the archive. But there is the cultural significance of an open, rich newspaper archive to consider as well, as Dan Gillmor notes:

Presumably, each article will have a perma-link. If so, watch what happens. The Times’l stories – many of which are definitive moments of journalism – will become the de facto primary sources for people around the Web, and around the world. On topic after topic, the Times story (or stories) will move near or to the top of the search engine rankings.

The people at the Times deserve praise for the way the have removed the subscription wall around the archive. As a coincidence, I had bookmarked quite a few older NYT stories. And the old URLs all work perfectly — they really were permalinks, it turns out. Websites with less foresight could easily have broken all those links.

Now we can research our way through the archive all the way back to 1987 (opening up, to take some examples, unique material from the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Or, why not, the first mention of the Mosaic browser in the NYT.)

Recently Information, the Danish newspaper, opened their archives. Which Norwegian newspaper will be first?

UPDATE: Many weigh in on this one, of course. See Jay RosenJeff Jarvisposts tagged “timesselect” via Technorati