I’d been ruminating on the TimesSelect move for a while (the NYT.com is making some of its more popular content available to paid subscribers). Brian Dear’s comments hit the nail on the head.
I empathize with the need for nyt.com to make a buck — still, this seems a doubtful strategy. It will likely work within their core constituency (who already subscribe and as such get free membership (for now?)), but will do little to grow their customer base. I suspect that future top columnists will opt to publish in outlets which will allow them to have millions of readers, not tens of thousands. After all, if I were an opinion-maker, I’d want to be heard, not just within a walled garden.