Contemplation: The New York Times to Charge Users

For those of you like me who are find a significant amount of interest in the transition between print media and digital media the big news of the day is probably that The New York Times has announced that starting in 2011 it will begin charging readers after they have hit a certain article access cap.  Already this news seems to be causing some serious discussion about what this means and how it is likely to further affect traditional journalism media in the digital day and age.  Being an avid reader of The New York Times (I sit down reading it every morning before heading to work), and not having offered a good contemplation for a long time, I have decided to weigh in on this matter.

I think my opinion can best be summed up with “Good for you New York Times, it is about time that you start charging for your quality services.”  Now there are probably a lot of people who will take issue with my stance but please allow me to explain myself before any of you decide to jump down my throat about how the news should always be free and available.

I support the NYT in charging for access to their content because I want to continue to support their existence and that just ain’t happening with paid advertising.  Is charging for access a surefire means of boosting revenue?  Probably not, but I imagine it will offer some help.  I further support NYT in charging for access because prior to the digital age that is what they were already doing, and guess what (big shocker here), people fucking paid for it.  That is right folks, people used to (and some still loyally do) pay for print media!

I highly support freedom of information and there may be some people who assume that having to pay for news, from a source like The New York Times, will limit that freedom but this is just not so.  Think about it for a second.  The New York Times (and really any news source) is providing people with a service, that service being the gathering and disseminating of relevant news.  To provide this service some form of revenue is needed and while advertising space can provide some, users of the service should be expected to contribute (just as users of any number of other services – phones, Internet, garbage disposal, etc. – pay to be provided such).  Charging for access to a service is perfectly reasonable in my opinion.

And I can just hear the “but doesn’t that charging for access limit the freedom of information?” 

I will stress that is does not.  Before the current age of finding out stuff on the Internet were people who did not subscribe to a newspaper able to find out information?  Of course they were able to!  Just because there is a charge does not mean that all means of access are denied; there are libraries, there are people who are willing to share access to their own paid service, there are other means in which information moves about (think all the social media outlets of today).  The charging is just making one means of information dissemination service cost a user fee (aka a subscription).  The information is in no way being withheld from anybody.  The charge just means that to access the information in a specific format (in this case The New York Times format) people must pay an out of wallet cost.

The users of the NYT are not the only people who will have a responsibility in the newspaper’s decision to have a cost for use.  The New York Times itself will have a responsibility to continue to provide quality service and content to their users (those paying the subscription esp.).  If the NYT were to stop providing quality service then it would be more than reasonable that they would lose customer support (this is, in theory, how things work).  In charging users The New York Times will have the responsibility of providing quality customer service and to listen to their users with respect and tenacity.  Failure to do so would not justify their continued demand for monetary compensation for inadequate service.

The idea of getting something for “free” is a really nice thought but the reality is that any kind of “free” service is only “free” in a subjective sense; basically somebody, somewhere, is paying to provide that service (even if you don’t notice it coming out of your wallet right then).  My dad used to stress this to my brother and I with the reminder that “nothing is free.”  Perhaps a somewhat grim reality of things, but it is a reality nonetheless.  For may of us using various Internet services, we take the concept of “free” for granted and do not think about how these services are provided to us.  That has made some of us think that it is wrong for a business like The New York Times to charge for their online content, when in truth they are doing nothing wrong at all by wanting to make sure of their continued business.  I think it is pertinent that we consider our self-righteous desires for “free” news before we heap any major criticism on The New York Times for their decision.

When 2011 roles around will I be paying for a subscription to continue using The New York Times?  You bet your fucking ass I will.  For years now I have been getting what I feel is quality news, knowledge, and entertainment from reading The New York Times and I have been very grateful to them for courteously providing me with reasonable access and limited advertisement swamping.  I want to do my part to make sure that they continue to provide a great resource of news, knowledge, and entertainment and so I will gladly contribute a portion of my paycheck to do so.  If you do not believe that the service is worth contributing a portion of your own incometo than that is fine and good, but understand that in making that personal decision The New York Times (or any other news service) is more than justified in withholding access to their format of news information.

I’d love to hear what people think about this decision by The New York Times.  I am sure a bunch of you have some great perspectives on the matter.  Leave a comment (keep it respectful please) and we can start a conversation on this.  You all should note that this is probably one of my most adamantly supportive of capitalism pieces I think I have ever written (but that does not mean that I think capitalism is without flaws, I think there are lots of them, but in this case I think the aim of making money is perfectly justified).

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~ by Nathaniel on January 20, 2010.

3 Responses to “Contemplation: The New York Times to Charge Users”

  1. I got this news in a free email update from the Times and thought “man, this sucks.” But it will probably only relieve me of about one beer a week. With journalists dropping like flies in this economy, it surely won’t hurt me to support something like the NYT or any other news source I use repeatedly. Props to the NYT for this decision.

    • Yeah, I think my initial reaction might have been like “but it has been free.” But when you really consider how much it will cost to get quality journalism it suddenly becoem quite worth it in my opinion. Got to feed the journalists to they can keep writing.

  2. Not that I think the NYT will stop taking advertisements, but I’d rather the people pay for my news than advertising, anyway. I think it would be more honest.

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