Andrew Rosenthal Understands How Internet Works Real Good

Radar's Charles Kaiser interviewed New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal to discuss, inter alia, his position, his NYT pedigree, and why he doesn't get how assorted business models for monetizing online content work. After explaining to Kaiser that the NYT had four staffers assigned to the opinion page website plus writers for dedicated columns, they had this exchange:

Do you pay these people? Or do you use the Huffington Post model?

No, no, we pay them. Because we have this crazy view that people need to pay the rent.

Ha, ha. Never mind that I remember exactly what I was paid by the NYT during my freelancing days, that position represents a glib misstatement of the HuffPo business model: A staff (yes! Here we are!) who edit, design, administer the site and its content, in some cases (ahem) generated by staff members but the lion's share of which is submitted gratis by our contributors, for whom evidently the payoff of having their stuff featured on HuffPo in an amount of and at a rate of their choosing is enough to make it worth their while. It's the business model, and, I dunno, it seems to be working.

Okay! Enough protesting too much, here's another example of how maybe Andrew Rosenthal maybe doesn't get how this newfangled Internet thingie works:

What was your position on Times Select [which put Times columnists behind a wall that was only accessible to subscribers to the paper, or to those who paid for Times Select; the Times gave up on charging earlier this fall]?

I wasn't consulted. I wasn't part of the discussion. The discussion predated my becoming deputy editorial page editor. When they went behind the wall, I was deputy editor. My position at that point was, I think that the newspaper industry joined hands and took a collective leap off a cliff for no discernible reason--when we decided to announce to the world that what we do has no value at all. And we should have been charging for our websites from day one. Subscriptions have been part of this forever. You have to pay for paper. You have to pay for pixels. It costs money. And I think it was a huge mistake. I can't put that back in the tube now. But if you look at the Internet, the only thing that's free is what we do: information. Everything else costs money. Ring tones cost a dollar. You pay for your access to the Internet. You pay for your e-mail. Everybody says e-mail is free. It's not free. First of all, you're paying your ISP for it. And if you're using something like Google mail, you're turning yourself into an advertising conduit for a giant corporation. There's nothing free about the Internet. It's just baloney. (emphasis added)

Um, if he can't understand what's analogous between ads on Gmail and ads on, then I can't help him. Ditto subscriber-supported models versus advertiser-supported models. But also, sounds like he doesn't think that the vastly unpopular and from-the-start-widely-held-to-be-moronic TimesSelect went far enough. Yowsas. We'd like to put him in a room with Jeff Jarvis and see how long he'd last.