Paywall prevents patronage

Russell Anglin

I am a pretty cheap person. A bottle of water typically lasts me about a month, I buy toilet paper one roll at a time and it will be a cold day in Guam before I buy high-grade gasoline. If I don’t have to pay for something, I probably won’t.

So when I discovered a couple of weeks ago that the New York Times was going to charge me money to continue reading its articles because I had hit the 20-story monthly limit for free online content, I steered my browser elsewhere.

I’m not saying the New York Times made a bad business decision. Perhaps they have plenty of customers who are willing to spend that cash. But I pay about $30 a month for the entire Internet, so I decided to keep my debit card in my pocket.

From the Times’ switch to a paywall system to a handful of regional and national news websites doing the same, it would seem that a significant number of news outlets have faith that die-hard readers will pay to get their news online.

This viewpoint boils down to a question I’ve heard asked by various individuals and news commentators: Why would you pay for news or, much less, a newspaper if you can just get the content for free?

Why indeed. I certainly wouldn’t. Problem is, though, there are so many news sources available for free that when one news outlet starts charging, it only makes sense to go to other sites.

And, of course, a lot of people still like newspapers and may not care for the Internet that much. To some people, it doesn’t matter that stories are available for free online. They still like holding a paper in their hands to read with their morning coffee, and no laptop or brightly-lit tablet will change that for them.

I personally don’t have the coordination to handle a newspaper, especially a very large one. I can’t ever get them to fold back correctly once I open them. That crease simply will not cooperate with me. I do enjoy the smell of newspapers, though, and I don’t think we will be able to bring that experience to an online format anytime soon.

In any case, the experts will continue to debate the finer points of the free-versus-pay conflict while I YouTube my favorite songs so I don’t have to buy compact discs. I guess we’ll have to see how frugal consumers of news really are.