Who will buy this wonderful columnist?

…such a by (line) I never did see…and never will again if you’re not prepared to fork over $49.99 for access to TimesSelect come September, when the NYT archives and glittering op-ed columnists will disappear behind a subscription wall. At that point, if you like Maureen Dowd and want to read Oliver stuff, you’d better pony up. (About one person got that. Please be laughing.)

TimesSelect is a good deal if you want all-access all the time; less so if you just want to quell a MoDo jones every once in a while. But how do the numbers distribute over the columnists? And what kind of complex algorithm is necessary to accurately synthesize such subjective info? Fear not, Timothy Noah at Slate is on it, feeding a random sample of liberal-skewing reader responses into a vaguely scientific equation, tying it up with a ribbon and putting it in a box for you.

The numbers crunch thusly: Paul Krugman is tops, followed by Thomas Friedman, Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd as above-average (i.e. worth the money), with Nicholas Kristof, Bob Herbert, David Brooks and John Tierney a needless drain on your precious resources.

Our half-brother by intermarriage at Fishbowl DC was on this last week, soliciting a similarly-skewed sample in his own pundit-pricing poll. Tom Friedman and his sexy mustache was the big winner there. Seriously, that thing makes me woozy.

All sorts of completely unscientific lists after the jump. You can see them at your leisure, whenever things go wrong, and you can keep them as a treasure, to last your whole life long.

Columnists for sale [Slate]

From Slate: NYT columnists, in descending order of perceived value (Timothy Noah):

Paul Krugman: $6.90
Thomas L. Friedman: $4.10
Frank Rich: $3.92
Maureen Dowd: $3.42
Nicholas Kristof: $2.35
Bob Herbert: $1.42
David Brooks: $1.39
John Tierney: $0.31

From the New York Observer, pundit standings, May 10-16 (Tom Scocca):

1. Frank Rich, score 21.0 [rank last week: 4th]
2. Paul Krugman, 18.0 [1st]
3. Thomas L. Friedman, 13.5 [2nd]
4. Nicholas D. Kristof, 11.0 [6th]
5. Matt Miller, 8.5 [no rank]
6. Bob Herbert, 0.5 [5th]
7. (tie) David Brooks, 0.0 [8th]
7. John Tierney, 0.0 [7th]

From Fishbowl DC:

David Brooks (2)
Maureen Dowd (3)
Tom Friedman (3)
Bob Herbert (3)
Nicholas Kristof (3)
Paul Krugman (4)
Frank Rich (6)
John Tierney (1)

What the numbers mean: (1) “I’d pay $50 a year to NOT hear their opinion”; (2) “Not a plugged nickel”; (3) “Pay? This are the internets! They’re free!”; (4) “Fine. I’ll fork over the cash. Not happy, but the column’s worth it.”; (5) “$50 a year is a bargain!” (6) “All of Donald Trump’s dough.”

From MEL, 7-day standings on May 23/05, 4:33pm EST, rankings out of top 25 articles emailed:

2. Paul Krugman, “Staying What Course?”
5. Paul Krugman, “The Chinese Connection”
11. Frank Rich, “It’s All Newsweek’s Fault”
13. David Brooks, “Bashing Newsweek”
16. Frank Rich, “Do I Smell Gay?”
20. Thomas Friedman, “Even If I Don’t Smell Gay, Would You Find My Mustache Sexy?”

(NB: Maureen Dowd is off this week; listings don’t account for the fact that certain articles are older than others; Frank Rich’s #16 was actually called “Just How Gay Is the Right?”and Thomas Friedman # 20 was actually called “Outrage and Silence”)