Saying That The NY Times Paywall Is Dumb Does Not Mean That We Don't Want The NY Times To Make Money
from the this-is-real? dept
Someone passed along Simon Dumenco’s AdAge report in which he purports to debunk the bloggers who are criticizing the NY Times’ paywall. Frankly, it may be the dumbest argument I’ve seen in a long time, in that it makes absolutely no sense. First Dumenco mocks BoingBoing (where Cory Doctorow is not a fan of the NYT paywall) because it didn’t have employees kidnapped in Libya like the NY Times did. And… somehow, this is proof that a paywall makes sense. I’m not kidding.
Dumenco’s demented argument appears to be “the NY Times does real journalism, the people complaining do not, and thus mocking a paywall is bad.” But that completely and totally ignores the very point that people are making about the paywall. We’re not mocking the paywall because we don’t like news organizations doing real journalism, or we think they don’t deserve to make money. We’re mocking the paywall because it won’t help the NY Times actually make that much money. It’s a bad idea not because it’ll help the NY Times continue to do serious reporting, but because it won’t actually help them do that. That’s the point that many of us — including Doctorow — were making. But instead of responding to that, Dumenco made up a complete straw man that somehow people against the paywall are against the NY Times doing reporting at all.
Even worse, he compounds the ridiculousness of the argument by then mocking Doctorow’s support of business models that include “free” as a part of the business model by noting that Doctorow sells physical books, even as he gives away digital copies of all of his books. It’s as if Dumenco’s brain can’t comprehend rather simple concepts. When people talk about the use of free as a part of a business model, it doesn’t mean that everything must be free. For example, I read Dumenco’s ridiculously stupid article online for free. Does this mean that Dumenco also doesn’t believe that the NY Times should make money? That seems to be the logical conclusion of his illogical argument.
We see this kind of brain-dead logic all too frequently in discussions of business models in the digital age. I tend to think of it as the mental divide-by-zero error, wherein otherwise intelligent people simply stop thinking, the second someone mentions “free” as a part of a business model. Suddenly, they think that this means “absolutely everything must be free and no one should make any money at all.” And yet, no one argues that. They’re arguing about what things should be free, and what it doesn’t make sense to charge for if you actually want to make money. For example, charging for a paywall online is probably not a very good business strategy to make money. Saying that doesn’t mean I don’t want the NY Times to make money. It means that I think they could make more money by putting in place an alternative business model — such as by getting people to pay for added scarce value, rather than abundant content.