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Columnist Scott Simon presents a commentary on the rising number of paywalls in front of news articles and general information that used to be free to consume.
A lot of them range from $1 subscriptions to $3 subscriptions, which then becomes $11.99 a month afterward.
“I have a strong, even personal interest in paying journalists fairly. But the cost most people have to pay these days if they want to try to stay informed and enrich their minds with a range of opinions is pretty steep,” Scott Simon remarks.
Simon claims that it’s even harder to read one article or two in most publications. Websites like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Des Moines Register, Ebony, The New Yorker, The Economist, Rolling Stone, The Nation, and National Review all prompt you to subscribe.
“And of course, there are proliferating newsletters and extra-access-plus plans, as news broadcasters begin their own subscription services. They don’t crave an audience, so much as what they call a ‘customer base,’ Simon adds.
On the other hand, Jack Shafer wrote in Politico, “You can’t do much web grazing of quality content these days without a paywall clanging shut on you. What delights publishers about subscriptions is what everybody from Amazon to Spotify to the Dollar Shave Club to Netflix love — the annuity-like reliability of steady revenue.”
Simon points out that the cost of having these paywalls is that news, information, and a range of opinions are only available to those who can afford them and can receive them online.
“This skews the audience toward what Nikki Usher, a University of Illinois College of Media associate professor, calls the ‘rich, white, and blue,’ as in left-leaning,” Simon says.
Meanwhile, disinformation remains free.
Simon reminisces on newspapers, where even if it got ink on your fingers, you and anyone who had pocket money could afford them or any old magazine with Princess Diana or Oprah Winfrey on the cover. They got a hold of the news when the headlines read MAN WALKS ON MOON.
“The internet has made news and views of all kinds, from all over the world, available on screens we can keep in our pockets. But so many paywalls have pulled costly shades over those screens,” Simon concludes.
Opinions expressed by California Gazette contributors are their own.