With so much material free on the Web, are you willing to pay for online content?

Newsweek magazine has announced that it will stop publishing its paper edition at the end of this year, moving to online-only publication supported by paid subscriptions. Today’s Question: With so much material free on the Web, are you willing to pay for online content?

  • reggie

    While it is true that there is plenty of “free” information available online, the ratio of wheat to chaff is running in the wrong direction. One reason I have several subscriptions to print/online or online only publications and services is because I value the work of editors and producers in screening out the vast amount of useless stuff.

    In general, we need to re-think the value of “free.” Nuanced, sophisticated, well-researched, or simply interesting material takes real work by talented people. We need to figure out how to pay them for it, and then be willing to pony up. If we don’t, all we’ll have will be cat videos, propaganda, and binders full of women memes.

  • Rich

    You mean people will actually pay for the privilege of downloading Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, reddit, etc. plugins?

    If they toss in popups and commercials within the videos, that sounds like it would be a great bargain. ;^)

  • Ann

    I pay $11.95 for dial up Internet.I might pay more for a faster Internet. I won’t pay for anything else on the Internet. Since so many of us have low incomes or are unemployed, I am always surprised that people can afford so much technology.

  • Tom Lenzmeier

    Yes, there’s no such thing as “free”. What’s more, you get what you pay for.

  • GregX

    Its a choice question NOW, it won’t be a question farily soon. In future -if you want the “in-hand” experience – you will need to print it yourself. … … ..

    Historically – “classic media” ad revenues have supported the NEW free media (AKA ” the internet”) for a long time. TV and Radio have always had a virtual distribution system – meaning no materials and shipping logistics or costs. Magazines, Journals, Newspapers – the root source of much “real content” with on the ground and everywhere reporters have two larger costs – more staff to cover their “locales” and a massive distribution cost. That latter cost has gasoline and labor embedded and not much oppourtunity for cost control. As ad revenues drop in both areas – guess what … the acutal consumer WILL be paying for it. The question is HOW. (1) a personal subscription for every content you want ? (2) a Content service you pay that harvests from multiple sources ( think cable or sattellite) ? Which one do you want.

  • James

    I currrently do not pay for any online subscriptions although I am a sustaining member of NPR/MPR which is analagous, and I believe I have a richer online experience with Sports Illustrated because part of the cost of my magazine subscription opens online doors.

    I am actually concerned that I will simply be less informed when my snail mailbox dries up. I cancelled the Star Tribune a few months ago because I was only skimming it, and even that, not every day. But I don’t have the discipline go to their website every day to replace the news I lost, so by definition, I am now less informed.

    It’s possible that when the paid physical and free onine pickings get really slim, I will pony up for some paid online news, but it hasn’t happend yet.

  • Linda in Plymouth

    Please be aware that the reason News Week went bust is because they ignored +50% of the population

    (those who are conservative and independent) Media that caters only to supporting the Left wing Progressive agenda always eventually goes broke.

  • Lawrence

    I wouldn’t be willing to pay; but, for me, there is a real danger to newspapers confined only to the web. The price for information will start to increase, reaching such a high price point that eventually segregates the remaining population. Once a large section of the population is segregated from the news, it becomes far easier for companies to buy off politicians and write legislation that is not in the majority of the public’s interest. Moreover, if newspapers are restricted to online access only, the temptation for propaganda instead of actual information increases. As the audience size that can afford to pay shrinks this will force many news sites to go out of business, making it impossible to verify the accuracy of what’s being reported, and all too tempting for new agenices to give the smaller paying audience exactly what it wants to hear. No matter what side of the political fence each of us individually is on, no one party has all the answers to everything.

  • Wally

    Sometimes on Craigslist, the multiple listings and scams so fill up the page, that it’s hard to find unique, legitimate ads. I have bought and sold numerous items, got some incredible bargains, even found a new home for a cantankerous cat. Only been burned once–fortunately just lost gas money and time.

    But I’d gladly pay to post on Craigs.A buck or two per listing could sure cut down on the scumbags (thanks, Keith Ellison for reminding me of that wonderful label) who post hundreds of fraudulent ads for the same item. Of course, if a crook had to pay $2 each x 300 phony listings, and only got one sucker at $2,000, that still could be profitable. So maybe the fee for big ticket items ought be higher.

    On the other hand, I suspect a lot of the vehicle scams on Craigs are attempts at identity theft, so not sure what it would take to make that cost more than it’s worth. You’d think Craigs would install software for stopping that.

    As to news content, I’d pay, if it was worth it. But I agree with Linda about Newsweek. And I say GOOD RIDDANCE!

    But hey, what if online content providers operated like NPR/MPR, with government subsidies and member funding?

  • Gary F

    “Please be aware that the reason News Week went bust is because they ignored +50% of the population

    (those who are conservative and independent) Media that caters only to supporting the Left wing Progressive agenda always eventually goes broke.”

    Yep. It failed to really matter. Just another left leaning rag. Same with the NY Times and the Star Tribune.

    I haven’t read a Newsweek in about 6-7 years. My left leaning dentist has it in his office. I read Highlights instead.

  • GregX

    for Linda and GaryF who think that “-ism” dictates whether a media source is printed or posted … WRONG. the ultra right Rupert Murdoch has been planning to get rid of printed versions of his products for years… and to bill for online media. the advert-click-fee model is sort of like wind/solar power – NOT RELIABLE every week, so … to cover BASELOAD – subscriptions will be mandatory. Price Point is the problem as well as sub-scription model – no one wants to pay 30/year for every periodical/meida source they “might” consume in a year. Some like to browse and vary daily or weekly – based on content – like at the news stand. So .. some easy ala carte solution is needed. but .. it will hit the fright wing as well as the cleft wing.

  • Melissa

    “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

    -Stewart Brand

    “Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. …That tension will not go away.”

    -Stewart Brand

    “I believe that all generally useful information should be free. By ‘free’ I am not referring to price, but rather to the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to one’s own uses… When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving.”

    -Richard Stallman

  • David

    The willingness to learn is the price.

  • Xopher

    I would pay for online content, but there’s no way that I’m ever going to pay for the crap that is Newsweek.

  • Jim G

    Yes, we now subscribe to a couple of hobby magazines on a tablet, and we have on-line access to the Star Tribune with our home delivery. With news magazines I would probably prefer an ala carte option rather than a recurring subscription. But truthfully I am more comfortable with the tactile experience of folding a real newspaper than the swiping of my finger. I’ll really miss hearing the “plop” at 4:30 A.M. as my paper is delivered.

  • Jamie Zawinski

    You’ll often hear cypherpunk weenies with poorly-thought-out philosophies trot out “information wants to be free” as some kind of pseudo-socialist Utopian vision, but the point is, information “wants” to be free in the same way nature “abhors” a vacuum: it’s not some moral view, it’s just the natural state of affairs. It’s the path of least resistance. It is “the sound of inevitability.”

    John Gilmore once said, “The Internet treats censorship as damage, and routes around it.” But in the general case, “censorship” isn’t really the right word. In many cases, a more apt quote would be from the Jeff Goldblum character in Jurassic Park: “life finds a way.”

    This is all tied up in the quagmire that is “Intellectual Property”. People feel they own their ideas. People understand “property” in terms of physical objects, and now they’ve been told that information can also be a subject of property, so they expect it to work the same way. The problem is it doesn’t work the same way at all. The notion of “intellectual property” has poisoned the way people think about the flow of information. They look at events as property transactions which are more rightly characterized as, “you and I will agree to keep a secret.”

    There is a lot of money to be made in the business of secrets, of course. But it works differently than posession of objects, since information doesn’t have laws of conservation. When I give you a physical object, you are in posession of it and I am not; when I give you information, we both possess it, and my possession of it has not been lessened.

    For example: the content of the New York Times is not a secret, but they are not selling ideas: they are selling access to ideas. The only way they are capable of doing that is because there is a contract (via copyright law) to give them exclusive duplication rights to the particular expression of those ideas. The whole point of copyright (and patent) law is to coerce people to not do that which is natural — allow information to flow unhindered — in order to accomplish something which has been judged by society’s lawmakers to be a greater good: paying people for thinking.

    The nature of this process is the management of secrecy: compelling third parties to not share directly with each other: to keep secrets.

    Opinions vary on whether and to what extent this is a good idea, but that’s how it works. I happen to think that the way copyright works is mostly pretty good and effective (unlike, say, patents), but I don’t believe it’s property. It’s a contract.

    And what document on this topic would be complete without trotting out that overused Jefferson quote:

    “That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and the improvement of his conditions, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement of exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1813

  • LauraL

    Of course! I help pay for MPR !!! And TPT too. Besides that, I love dog-earing pages – hard to do digitally.

  • Wally

    Jamie Z. So is it your ideal is to abolish copyrights or not?

    Though it is theft to steal the work of others and represent it as one’s own, it’s not only about the money; it’s about the dishonesty of the act.

    Have you ever been plagiarized? Not in grade school by the kid looking over your shoulder, but by someone who copied your work, and sold it as their own?

    I have. It’s not fun.

    NOTE to Jamie Z. I see you copyrighted this very piece when you first posted it NINE YEARS ago. Instead of cutting and pasting your old stuff, how about a new thought? I have hundreds of thousands of words in print, on many of the topics here, but I respect this forum enough to address the question in an original manner.

  • jockamo

    Today’s question is not optimal….

    And, if it ever should happen to be optimal, you didn’t build it…….

    This binder is encrusted with less than optimal non-builders……