Jay Lake: Writer

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[personal] Paying for online content

I have a small conflict of interest which crops up from time to time. It did a while back with The Christian Science Monitor, and again just lately with Andrew Sullivan’s site, The Dish. Both are excellent news sources, and both put up a paywall after you’ve read a very limited number of articles.

There are workarounds for some paywalls. Google News gets around The New York Times paywall, for example. If I find or get a tip to a Times story, I can call it up in Google News and click through. That doesn’t seem to work for me for The Christian Science Monitor and The Dish.

I’m not sure it should work for me, frankly. Andrew Sullivan has every right to be able to make a living, and The Christian Science Monitor can’t possibly be cheap to run. They deserve to be paid.

The problem for me is that I read dozens of Web sites every day. I can read hundreds in a given week, following links from other articles or tips people email me for Link Salad.

I simply cannot afford to subscribe to all the sites that want my money. If I made my living as a journalist, Web-based or otherwise, and could count those subscriptions as research expense, maybe I could justify them. Even then, we’re talking many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars per year.

So I just don’t read The Christian Science Monitor, despite their excellent reporting. And I’m giving up on Andrew Sullivan, even though my initial reading of The Dish engaged me considerably. Instead I must rely o commentators and link aggregators elsewhere on the Web for any exposure at all to either of those markets. And so many others.

In effect, this is my personal version of the Paradox of Choice. Too many good choices, and I cannot afford them all. Instead I’m driven away from excellent sources. I can’t afford to pay everyone, so I pay hardly anyone.

That doesn’t seem right. But I don’t perceive a better solution.

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