How Engaging Is An Open Public Discussion If It Costs $20 To Enter?

from the civic-square dept

There's been a lot of attention paid to Pierre Omidyar's attempt to build a new kind of local news organization in Hawaii. Omidyar, of course, was the founder of eBay, and many of the early comments about the project made it sound like a "new" type of news organization that really was very much about making the community a part of the process -- something that we've pointed out makes a lot of sense. Omidyar also brought in John Temple, the former editor, president and publisher of the (failed) Rocky Mountain News -- who had been quite introspective in recognizing why RMN failed. So it seemed like the new project, originally called Peer News, had a good basis.

But the details are coming out, and they seem... odd. Apparently, the newly named "Honolulu Civil Beat," which is supposed to be more like the discussion found in a "civic square" thinks it can charge people $19.99 per month to take part. That's quite a steep entrance fee to a "civic square." I thought part of the value of the civic square was its openness.

Even worse, Temple (who clearly knows better) is trotting out the old school media's most tired excuse for why paywalls will work: claiming that because the WSJ has done it, others can as well:
"People are paying on the Web for (publications such as) The Wall Street Journal; it has established value. ... We believe people will pay for content and experience that they value."
But that ignores why people pay for the Wall Street Journal, which is not just that "it has value," but that it has scarce value that helps people make money now. I don't recall similar information being covered in the normal civic square. In the meantime, I'm sure there are plenty of local community sites for Honolulu already. Why would people want to pay extra to join just one of them?

Filed Under: civic square, paywalls, pierre omidyar

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2010 @ 9:25pm


    The $20 fee would hinder the building of a strong community, so there's less likelihood of it ever having enough value for anyone to think of paying for it.

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