The New York Times announced today that – surprise! – starting March 28, people are going to have to pay for their content beyond a generous 20 free articles a week. No doubt a lot of people out there on the interwebs are decrying the injustice — What? Pay for news content? Ridiculous! — but I firmly stand by the side of the Gray Lady on this one. If anything, I feel like it’s something that should have been done ages ago (and I’m not talking about the ill-conceived TimesSelect function that they thankfully axed in 2007).
Look, the concept of “you get what you pay for” applies just as much to media as it does to anything else in our capitalist culture. If you seriously think that reading the minimally researched and un-fact-checked insights of a 22-year-old blogger is anything like reading the dispatches of Nicholas Kristof, then go ahead and keep refusing to pay for anything. But the fact of the matter is that actual journalism is an expensive endeavor. If a society starts taking it for granted (and we’ve clearly already started going down that slippery slope), then you can essentially start saying goodbye to checks and balances. The more a media outlet begins to rely on “clickability” and subsequent online ad revenue over a core subscription base, you get into the kind of sensationalist title-bating that you find in deeply irresponsible headlines like this gem from Slate.
The Times was arguably starting to fall into the same trap as well. I mean, how do you compete with the HuffPo’s 40-pt fire-engine red font surrounded by thumbnails of Charlie Sheen? Ironically, these all-caps headlines usually just link you back to the Times anyway, only it’s Huffington walking away with the most clicks. So please people, listen up. Don’t be so cheap that you don’t want to pay $15 a month to have unlimited access to quality news on your $300 iPhone. The world needs good journalists…and guess what? Just like you they need to get paid!