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Build the Wall

Over at the Columbia Journalism Review David Simon, journalist and co-creator of the critically acclaimed series The Wire, argues that online newspapers like the NyTimes and The Washington Post should start charging for their content and do it now before it’s too late. The problem is not if people are willing to pay or not, but as John Gruber points out, if enough people are willing to pay. One example that Simon uses for his case is cable tv subscription.

For the first thirty years of its existence as America’s primary entertainment medium, television was—after the initial purchase of the set itself—provided at no cost to viewers, instead subsidized by lucrative ad revenues. The notion of Americans in 1975 being asked to pay a monthly bill for their television consumption would have seemed farcical. Yet in the ensuing thirty years, we have become a nation that shells out $60, $70, or $120 in monthly cable fees; indeed, whole vistas of programming exist free of advertising revenue, subsidized entirely by subscriptions.

Exactly. That worked because TV is and has always been free. But there’s one problem though: we are already paying for internet access. The only thing that costs is the contraption itself like he states. You turn it on and it has free channels. Not a lot of channels, but the content is free. But when you buy a computer, or now a days, a smartphone, no matter how many times you click on a browser icon, you have to pay first to access all that “free” content on the web. (This excludes of course people that live in Starbucks) If anything, the web is more like the telephone industry, than the television industry. You’re not paying for the content, but for the management of your “call”, and basically the space in the bandwidth. But even when understanding that, all this stuff I see, hear, and read on my LCD screen is costing me a monthly fee.

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