All the news that’s fit to charge a little extra for

TimesSelect.gifIt’s finally here: Today the New York Times launches TimesSelect, and our favorite op-ed columnists — and more! — are soon to disappear behind a thick, impenetrable subscription wall (well, except for when they are reproduced in full and posted on the internets, on which we fully plan to rely).

The NYT thinks TimesSelect is a great value: “There is no other product like this. We provide access to some of the most influential and insightful voices today — the smartest, most powerful, and the liveliest voices in America and around the world.” This includes not only the Op-Ed columnist but also “Sports of The Times” columnists George Vecsey, Dave Anderson, Harvey Araton; William C. Rhoden and Selena Roberts ; “About New York” columnist Dan Barry; Joyce Purnick on “Metro Matters”; Metro columnist Clyde Haberman; Peter Applebome of “Our Towns”; business columnists Floyd Norris, Gretchen Morgenson, and Joseph Nocera, and IHT folks Roger Cohen and John Vinocur. What a steal!

Even better, there’s perks: news alerts on up to 20 topics of your choice; archive access; and “early access to selected news,” which sounds like an odd distinction to draw for the Paper of Record in the age of the 24-hour news cycle. TimesSelect members will also get a sneak peek at Sunday’s paper (once again we’re talking “selected” reviews and columns).

But the biggest perk seems to be enhanced Op-Ed columnist access: a “get to know me!” video for each of them (“Meet Paul Krugman!”) , the chance to “reach out to the columnists with your opinions and questions” (hundreds of new BFFs for Tom Friedman!) and, weirdly, a book club with John Tierney.

What you don’t get: archived photos, premium crossword puzzle access, the option to “stop delivery” when you’re on vacation, or the option to just choose one feature (“there is no ‘a la carte’ option at this time”).

Sounds like it makes sense, right? As we pointed out last week, everyone loves their columnists and we predict MEL won’t budge a bit. But outside the rarefied world of TimesSelect, things will change: the blogosphere loves an easy link, and the Times will feel it on Technorati; E&P, notes that “there will be fewer mentions and links in the blogosphere; news aggregators won’t point their users to the columnists,” and has Times editorial page editor Gail Collins acknowedging that her columnists will probably be sacrificing their top spot in the online conversation somewhat. Considering the importance of that conversation, growing every day, it seems a pretty substantial trade-off for relevance for a paper billed as “The Paper of Record.”

Also, how will this play out on the pages of the Public Editor? There is already a brouhaha between Byron Calame and Krugman, Daniel Okrent’s favorite pen pal, and if the Public Editor is truly to fulfill his mandate ought he not provide access to any contested material? How about Letters to the Editor? It seems that TimesSelect is a step backward for transparency, something that the Times should probably watch out for given the recent past, not to mention the fact that Geraldo is probably watching them like a hawk.

What do you think of TimesSelect? And have you also downloaded and watched Tom Friedman’s mustache over and over again in sublime video form? Let us know, we care, we really do. Also, if you have a copy of Krugman’s column for today pass it on. We’re not made of money, people.