This week, the New York Times closed another loophole that got around its notorious paywall.
You know… the paywall.
The thing ensuring that one of the last bastions of what Americans call journalism (even if it’s owned by someone with a dubious background at best) doesn’t have to depend on advertising revenue that directly influences its content.
All to avoid paying $4 a week for news?
Hey, are you listening to music right now? Maybe you just read a great article on a news site. Or are you thinking about what kind of movie you’re going to watch on your computer tonight?
I bet you’re not going to pay for it.
The internet has made us all entitled thieves
The New York Times isn’t the only creative entity being affected by the age of the optional purchase. It’s especially not the only news source being affected: Pew research just reported that there are fewer than 40,000 full-time journalists left.
Oh, does that worry you? Are you going to pay for The New York Times now? I’m not, because I’m an entitled internet thief. Or at least an entitled internet snail, feeding on the residue of news instead of real news.
Every industry that depends on content is being destroyed or subsidized or structurally reimagined in an effort to sustain itself.
I already talked about the idea that Amazon is saturating the book market with the idea that novels should be free. That happened to news a long time ago. Meanwhile, the music industry is still gasping for help, wondering how new channels like YouTube and internet radio can sustain revenues at the same levels as before.
They can’t, of course– YouTube simply doesn’t pay the right royalties to artists. That’s a problem, considering that improved mobile data plans mean more video consumption which means fewer album purchases since most every kind of music is on YouTube.
Every industry is going to have to find a way to make people pay for creative stuff again, but, at the moment, companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon are busy lowering prices to zero to kill off the old guard.
This creates our entitlement. Entertainment and the recession have collided and now we don’t want to pay for stuff.
Our content condundrum
In my post about “The Age of the Optional Purchase,” I explained that loyalty was vital to getting people to buy your content again and I still believe that.
Buying entertainment in the era of free entertainment is a big committment, no matter the price, so fans need to be 100% confident that you can provide a totally unique experience.
But I don’t know if loyalty is enough, if…
- People are devising such sophisticated ways to get around The New York Times’ paywall,
- Game of Thrones is still impossible to pay for as an independent program
- YouTube is paying pittances to content creators.
The sad fact is that we have more access to more entertainment than ever before, but that’s made us into brats. We sneer at The New York Times for thinking people should pay for stuff, we sneer at HBO for trying to keep a bundled package of its programs, and we sneer at movie companies when they try to charge anything for their products.
Something’s got to give, and I think it might be the sneer. So, come on, go on the internet, look for someone or something you like, and shell out $5-$10.
If you don’t, creativity and quality content may start becoming a charity case.