The Unbundling of the 'Times'

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 9.58.47 AMThe last time that the New York Times tried to get people to pay just to watch Maureen Dowd getting high, it didn’t go great? But it’s seven years later, and things are different now; there are apps. With the launch of the dedicated NYT Opinion subscription and corresponding app—which follows NYT Now, its slimmed-down feed of supposedly just the things that matter—the unbundling is here. Much like iTunes broke the continuous unit of the album into its smallest atomic units, each one available for small, individual fees, it’s now easy to see how the Times, a great big bundle of some three hundred items a day, can be splintered a million different ways, through the prism of each reader’s taste, perhaps with a tiny subscription just to the Style section, or just metro coverage, or the Times magazine.

But unbundling means that each piece cut from the whole is exposed, and must stand on its own in the barren and unforgiving alien world that is the media right now. While NYT Now has garnered praise, the current version of The Scoop, the Times‘s New York City guide, gathered from the dining and arts sections, was released five months ago and has just seventeen ratings in the App Store; the latest version of the Real Estate app, released two months ago, doesn’t have enough ratings to show one at all. For better or for lolol, we’ll know how much people really care about what Thomas Friedman thinks soon enough.