NY times runs online courses for its readers

Here’s one way to add value for readers above and beyond the daily news – and add a revenue stream at the same time. The New York  Times runs online courses for its readers, which include sessions with the paper’s columnists.

Nieman Lab reports:

They’re offering week-long, largely online courses for Times readers who pay between $125 and $185.

It’s the first time that Times columnists have participated in the newspaper’s three-year-old Knowledge Network, an adult-education program operated in partnership with local universities. Stacy Green, a spokeswoman for the Times, told me that 100 courses are being offered this year, up from 50 in 2008, though only a handful include Times writers.

The participation of Kristof, Collins, and Asimov could be a precursor to the membership model the Times is considering in its search for new revenue streams on the web. A reader survey last month floated the possibility that paid members of the Times could enjoy special access along those lines:

TimesInsider: Ever wanted to talk cooking with Mark Bittman or to discuss books with Janet Maslin? How about a tour of the Times headquarters, including the newsroom? NYT Gold gives you insider’s access to the people who bring you the Times everyday.

The courses taught by Kristof and Collins, both op-ed columnists, include a “live, interactive Webcast,” three written lessons, and a message board where students can interact with their big-name instructors. For that, the Times is asking $185. Kristof’s course is on the exploitation of women in developing nations; Collins’s deals with the history of American women’s rights since 1960. Wine columnist Eric Asimov’s course, for $125, is a single session that students can attend in person or online. (Booze not included.)

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