My status as the blogger who won’t pay for online newspapers got a fresh challenge today, as The Washington Post announced they will be implementing a paywall in May. The Seattle Times does not yet appear to have implemented it’s paywall– the site indicates that it will become active ‘sometime in March’. The Seattle Times and The Washington Post are the two newspapers I read the most, and this double whammy might (or might not) be what finally brings me to break out a credit card. Perhaps Frank Blethen will be surprised to learn that if I do take up a digital newspaper subscription it will be not to The Seattle Times, but to The Los Angeles Times. Their rate ($1.99/week) would be half of Seattle’s rate ($3.99/week). While The Seattle Times would home deliver a Sunday paper, in addition to unlimited digital access, the fact is I don’t want a dead tree paper. And frankly, the Los Angeles paper is a much better newspaper.
I am also toying with the idea of trying to just go cold turkey. Rarely a day goes by that something I read in some newspaper doesn’t piss me off so much that I rant and rave to an extent that my distress is visible to my spouse, who inevitably remarks that I should know by now that I’m not supposed to read the newspapers. While waiting for The Seattle Times paywall to go up I have been reading it more than ever– though I definitely plan to stop as soon as the paywall hits. I suppose I could wait until the Post’s paywall goes up in May, also waiting to see if The Post will be smarter than either of my Times past (Seattle and New York) which are way over-priced. I’ve said before and am sure I’ll have occasion to say again that if they asked for twenty or even forty dollars per year I’d pay it without hesitation and consider it money well spent. The biggest reason I’m considering the El Lay Times is because they are charging only half as much. Dare I hope that The Washington Post might introduce pricing more in line with what seems fair to me?
As a life long reader and supporter of written journalism, I have to acknowledge that this past decade has in some ways been a wonderful one for readers of news, as most newspapers have tried to have their print readers bear all of the costs of gathering and reporting the news, while providing all or most of their content free on the web. That this is not a viable business model has long been apparent. It frustrates me almost unbearably that newspaper managements seem blindly committed to trying to charge a price beyond what most people will pay, rather than offering a low price and trying to attract a much larger audience. The fact is that if it were only twenty dollars a year, I would gladly subscribe to all four of the newspapers mentioned above, even though three of them are ‘out of town’ for me. What really galls me is my strong suspicion that most newspapers will die and fold before ever coming to grips with the new economics of their business.