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January 21, 2010

The Times SHOULD charge for access.

Today on the Internets

Everyone's been talking about how the New York Times is going to start charging for access, at least for people who access the site a lot. As someone who accesses the site a lot, I say: fine. Good. I want the Times to stick around, and I am happy to pay for it. (They do say that subscribers won't have to pay online, but I only subscribe on Sundays. Will I get online content free? Just Sunday content? It's unclear.) And the metered method means that people who just want to read a story or two - perhaps from clicking on a link elsewhere - will get to do so for free.

Recently I've been feeling like the "everything on the Internet is (or should be) free" concept that seems to be generally accepted may be approaching the point at which it does more harm than good. If there are sites or services I really like, I want them to survive, and I'd rather pay a small subscription fee than have to worry about things vanishing. (I worry about Twitter.) And this idea of free news online seems so entrenched, but really - 15-20 years ago, well within my lifetime, if you wanted to read a newspaper, you either paid for it or went to the library. So all of those now having fits about their universal right to whatever content they want for free - really? Really? Where do you think the content COMES from? Journalists need to eat!

A few interesting takes on this: Jack Shafer at Slate thinks the Times should focus on improving Web advertising revenue instead. Ezra Klein muses on the implications for bloggers and wonders whether bloggers will become a "black market" for news. And Matt Yglesias considers whether this means he should stop linking to Times articles so frequently.

Posted by Kat at January 21, 2010 12:00 PM

I'm mostly annoyed that there USED to be a pay wall, and then they took it down... and now it's back. I don't think they did it deliberately to suck people in (first one's free!) but I think they're part of the reason people expect news to be free at this point. Because it has been, even at the Times.

Posted by: Kate at January 22, 2010 10:22 AM

Thanks for posting this. I agree. The Times provides a huge service, and I think they've been allowing people to under-value it by not charging at all (Does that make sense? My brain is still a wee bit under the weather). I think the metered access is a lot more logical than TimesSelect, and it also makes sense if you read their statement about how people access the site - either randomly and only a few articles at a time, or super-heavy-users *raising hand* who are on all the time (I'm imagining you're one, too). I think the Times is a good news organization to take this lead. I only wish they had done it a couple of years ago, before all those newspapers started folding.

Posted by: your cousin Liz at January 22, 2010 11:01 AM
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