Today, The New York Times announced their intention of enacting a pay wall for their website. At first my reaction was somewhere between, "Idiots" and :Sure To Fail". Then, I started thinking about the issue a bit more and I slowely changed my mind. I still think the current plan for the pay wall is seriously flawed, but I also see a possibility for a change in how we access content online.
First, I should note that nytimes.com is generally the first site I go to when a major news story breaks outside of Minnesota. I also tend to explore it's many different blogs, the magazine, and other sections of the site throughout the week. As far as sites I spend time on, it's in my top 10, possibly top 5. Still, the thought of paying $15 a month to access that content seems a bit crazy to me.
However, the truth is, we need to pay for our news somehow. Advertising dollar's aren't paying the bills. As someone pointed out to me recently when I complained about still seeing ads in Hulu+, "it works for cable." We've paid for ad supported content in the past, and we're going to have to do it again unless we want our news quality to continue to suffer.
I finally realized my main issue with paying for nytimes.com access comes down to options. Today, I tend to go to at least three or four major news sites every day. CNN, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NPR, and BBC news get visited two or three times each throughout the day, even more so in the initial stages of a major story. Throw in MPR, Minnpost, Star Tribune, and the Pioneer Press for Minnesota news, and I have 10 websites that I visit for news throughout the day. Ad in the sources I visit via links on Twitter, Facebook, and my RSS feeds and your looking at upwards of 20 sites a day I visit for news.
For me, that's the biggest issue with paying for the subscription to the New York Times website. It's not that I don't want to pay someone for my news, it's that I don't want to be tied to any specific site. Once we start having pay walls eveywhere, which will happen if the New York Times succeeds, you're stuck with one source for the news or stuck paying multiple subscription fees. Even if every site has a 15 article allowance for free access, you're still limited.
What's the solution? I certainly don't have the answer. I just know that it's not longer the concept of paying for content that bothers me about online pay walls, it's the concept of being tied to a single source.