Online Subscription Models Are An Assault On Literacy
Forcing the general population to pay for news of the day content is turning them away from requisite knowledge for day-to-day economic, social, professional and personal success. And media outlets everywhere are clamoring to slap a “for less than the cost of a cup of coffee per day” paywall on that requisite knowledge.
I’m confused by this argument. Before the internet came around into the mainstream, didn’t the general population have to pay for news as well? The paper was around fifty cents a day. Local and network TV news is still freely available now as it was then, with the only cost obviously being the ownership of a television (which even the lowest of the low income folk still had). Same with terrestrial radio. So how do paywalls online inherently change this dynamic?
Limiting the scope to just the time period of the web’s progression, when the supposed “original sin” of journalism was perpetrated, could give merit to the argument, but it still makes one very big assumption. Who exactly are these people that feel persecuted by paywalls? Who isn’t reading general purpose “news of the day” reporting that would if they could afford it? Even better, do these people even give a fuck about the news in the first place?
In the same way that many of the privileged feign outrage and get offended on behalf of a underclass supposedly slighted by a remark, it’s arrogant to assume that what you consider “critical news you need to be successful in life” is even viewed in the same regard by others. Hell, many of the most accomplished people think keeping up with the news is a waste of time. For 99.9% of the public, even high-profile stories like the fiscal cliff and the war in Afghanistan frankly have little effect on an average person’s life, let alone their ability to change anything if it did.
I’ll be the first one to lament over the general public’s stupidity, our obsession with unimportant celebrity blather and the inclination to weigh the minutiae in our narcissistic small-worlds much more worthy than actual world-impactful events, but who am I to truly judge the merits of how others live their lives, informed or not?
Of course, the slippery slope argument here is that if all news outlets enact these paywalls en masse, then it will ultimately end with a dystopian future of the haves and the have-nots. Sounds a bit alarmist to me. The news has been commoditized enough already with a race to the bottom cost-wise that I can’t see this situation ever playing out.