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article imageOp-Ed: Paywalls — How to evaluate a New York Times subscription Special

By Paul Wallis     Oct 23, 2011 in Internet
Sydney - Some will have noticed I'm not exactly a great admirer of mainstream media. It took me ages to decide to subscribe to The New York Times, and the reasons weren’t what I expected.
It was a popup that started it. I had 2 articles left for the month. Did I want to subscribe, and if so, why? The only thing that ever bothered me about New York Times subscriptions was that they might pull the plug on the NYT the way they have on other papers. That would have been a loss, because NYT is one of the few good sources of news online without that weird editorial Kama Sutra approach to information. I’ve been reading the NYT for well over a decade, made a few comments and it’s one of my few compulsive mainstream media stops when looking for information on any subject.
Even so, I baulked at a subscription. The NYT gives you 20 free articles a month. That’s pretty good value, and it’s been enough for my needs as a writer and a consumer. That said- Some other issues popped up. Paul Krugman alone writes roughly that many articles per month. So do David Brooks and Frank Rich. These are guys who know how to put together an argument, and if I don’t always agree with them, I can at least respect their talent and ability to make their points.
That can’t be said for many other mainstream media outlets. I read at least 3 news sites a day. I read Bloomberg, The New York Times, BBC, ABC Australia, PBS and sometimes Washington Post, in the search for non-rabid news. I’ve got Reuters and AP bookmarked, and Google News on tap.
So, the evaluation works out like this:
1. The New York Times contains a lot more depth in major articles and op-eds and degrees of literacy which are notably missing from other sites.
2. I’ve had more than enough of politically motivated troll-news, and if the NYT has a Democrat flavour, it’s not based on clichés and macro-posts like other sites.
3. Do I use NYT research commercially? Yes. It pays for itself, and the site is pretty good in terms of searching for specific information.
4. The raw material approach from NYT is stronger and much broader
5. Do I need to see opinions from Krugman, Brooks, Rich, et al? Yes. They provide perspective, whether I agree or not.
6. Does the information value justify $1.10 a day? Yep.
7. Do I prefer to subscribe to things like this using PayPal rather than a credit card? Yes. I don’t use credit cards online unless it’s absolutely 200% essential.
8. Am I the sort of cheapskate that figures things out this way? Yep.
9. Is there a cancelation/refund policy? Yep.
Having read the NYT for well over 10 years and found a 99c offer for the first month (as distinct from $35, I signed up. Rupert Murdoch was right- Quality sells.
I still don’t agree with paywalls. I think that advertising revenue from fixed prices and marketing news site products (imagine a Best of The New York Times historical package 2000-2010, let alone the rest of its history) is a better and more realistic commercial option. I’m still worried that lousy business models will obliterate good news media. I still don’t like, or trust, MSM as a whole. But I’ll go along with this.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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