[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.

6 thoughts on “[personal] Paying for online content

  1. Albatross says:

    I see these as “immature business model” problems. The publishing industry is trying to apply print subscription paradigms (big up-front subscription, or free with advertising) to the Internet, and that just doesn’t work. (Also they’re inept – my local paper loads its paywall on the client, meaning that you can bypass it by simply hitting cancel during the page load).

    I’d like to see either penny-a-read subscriptions (instituted in some smoothly transparent interface such as “don’t bother telling me about the charges until I’ve spent a dollar”) or some inter-publication electronic trade currency (where commenting on, say any Disqus site, builds credit you can use to read any Disqus-affiliated article on any site). I’m willing to pay, but I’m not sending anyone $10 for a month. I’ll read it elsewhere or do without.

  2. Emeraldcite says:

    If I was a business minded person, I would try to do a netflix of news sources.

  3. Yep, that’s my issue as well. There’s some good sources out there, but I’m reluctant to pay because I just can’t see using any of them consistently.

  4. MightyCasey says:

    I pay for the NYT (longtime New Yorker, so sue me). I pay for Amazon Prime. I pay Comcast and VZW an unconscionable amount of gelt every flipping month for highly variable access. Welcome to the free market, where absolutely nothing is actually free.

  5. sammy says:

    Have your checked with your public library to see if they subscribe to any (or all of these) through their databases? It might be a day delay, but if they do, you can even set up an email alert so you get the headlines emailed to you, and then sign in to read the articles.

  6. Rick Moen says:

    It appears that The Dish and Christian Science Monitor, like the NY Times, use Javascript snippets to implement their paywalls. FWIW, as a user of the NoScript Firefox extension (which, in brief, permits you to easily enable particular Javascript snippets for any site you visit, have that choice persist, and all Javascript not enabled remain ignored by default), I’m not even aware of those paywalls being present any more. They vanish.

    That’s an incidental side-effect of NoScript, and nothing I set out to do. The actual aim of NoScript is to evade most of the spying-on-users specialty firms, improve Web performance, eliminate security threats, greatly reduce advertising clutter, etc. (I should warn that there’s a learning curve, as a number of sites start out wonky until you enable the necessary Javascript snippets. However, if impatient with the process, one can always ‘temporarily enable all’.

    Best Regards,
    Rick Moen

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