Charge for the Internet, Please!

I would like to add my voice to the current chorus suggesting that news organizations like the New York Times, currently in danger of bankruptcy, begin to charge for accessing their online content.

Don’t get me wrong: I love getting the Times for free, and I think their website is amazing, an invaluable source of information for recent history. Check out this page on the history of same-sex marriage, for example. You can type any number of topics into the Times search engine and come out with a summary and links to 20 years worth of articles, and current web resources, which have been researched and vetted by Times staffers.

In a perfect world, all information would be free. Unfortunately, we live in this world, where free access means killing off the institutions we need to remain an informed citizenry, and I can’t afford a vacation in Hawaii. It stinks, but that’s how it is. We need to understand when we have to suck it up and accept our choices as they are today. If I recall correctly, refusing to understand such choices is what saddled us with George W. Bush as president (and yes, I am still bitterly angry an almost-decade later at everyone who voted for Nader. You know who you are, asshats.).

True, the Times, and other newspapers have dropped the ball on major stories. Some of their columnists are Iraq-war supporting right-wing nut jobs. But papers like the Times, and the Washington Post and the LA Times, remain the best sources of information. Despite shortfalls, they’ve done some stellar work.

We can’t live without the mainstream media in the United States, despite its flaws.  So join me in encouraging the Times to start charging us. The vast majority of people who read these papers can afford to pay a minimal amount for an online subscription.

I don’t want their Baghdad bureau to close, and neither do you.

htg03

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4 Comments

Filed under mainstream media

4 responses to “Charge for the Internet, Please!

  1. 4everuppity

    I think when the NYT ceased making folks pay for content (see: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/lettertoreaders.html) they made a claim to the free flow of info. I think, though, newspapers and magazine simply can’t figure out how to make online subscriptions pay enough to be worthwhile. That said, does anyone know if it works for Salon?

  2. htg03

    The expectation when access became free was that they would find a way to make free internet access pay through online ads, or drawing new subscribers. The Times has not made free access pay, but others, like the Huffington Post, have made a bundle off of the site’s open access policy. The schemes being floated to turn newspapers into a sustainable industry include micropayments of as little as $5 a month for access. While sites like Salon are premised on open access, and creating a community of loyal readers in the comments threads, a bow to participatory journalism, they don’t support bureaus and the other dauntingly expensive organizations that give the Times access to information world-wide. Also, sites like the HuffPo don’t pay opinion writers (ie the majority of its writers) at all. It’s rather exploitative. I think that the British system of state subsidized media would be a wonderful thing to bring to the U.S. I do think that information should be freely accessible, financed through tax dollars, but we are so far away from that here, of course. What do you think of state subsidized media on the other side of the pond? Does it seem effective?

  3. 4everuppity

    I would love to hear about how state subsidized media work somewhere other than Britain. I gotta keep from getting all rant-y. Leftists holding up non-U.S. systems as a model has become a bit of a matador’s red flag for me. The BBC, despite the license fee, doesn’t result in a more open, participatory, nor unbiased media system. They talk a lot about responsibility to license payers, but very little is done to make the system transparent nor accessible.

    What I do think would be good to transfer back across the pond is transparency when it comes to newspapers and political leanings. Yes, I know, you can pretty much figure out U.S. newspapers’ bias, but there’s something quite blatant about U.K. papers that I appreciate in declaring their bias.

    The only thing I can notice as that different about U.K. television and licensed viewership is that there’s a lot more factual programming (usually along the lines of “The Boy With a Bike Tire Growing Out His Ass: the Rich Story of a Poor Sod”), more generally enriching historical documentary, and the lack of commercials is very nice but it’s hard to find pause to go make your cuppa tea.

    I didn’t realize Huffington Post bloggers don’t get paid, but then I think I’ve based that on hearing people’s byline on shows like (the scandalously cancelled) NPR News & Notes. I guess the assumption is that they get exposure?

    What’s stopping the NYT from charging micropayments? It’s an option that Bitch magazine has launched and I’m all in.

  4. htg03

    I wasn’t suggesting government subsidy to increase access or eliminate bias, but rather to help the news industry, with all of its flaws, survive.

    Another interesting article on this topic, posted at Salon today:

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2009/02/17/newspapers/

    I’ll keep posting links here as I see them, as I find this conversation endlessly fascinating.

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