We’ll happily pay for bottled water, broadband, and alcohol. We pay our mortgages, we upgrade our mobile phones, and we’ll kill an hour with a £3 cup of coffee.
But ask us to pay for the digital version of a newspaper and we rebel.
Pre-internet, newspapers were made of paper, and contained news. Once read, they were used by the local chippy to wrap up fish and chips. We paid for the newspaper because we understood that it was made of something, and written by people, and that’s how the world works.
Now we have the internet, and the written media is something we’ve decided should be free. We pay for our broadband connection and our tablet, “which is plenty thank you very much…I’ll just read all this ‘free’ news.”
So you have venerable publications like The Times, who charge a subscription, and institutions like The Guardian who are reduced to begging for spare change. The rest – The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express – are fettered to advertising.
So crammed full of adverts that you need to upgrade your broadband to something quicker, and your tablet to something newer, just to reasonably navigate its pages.
You pay for it, one way or another.
Your remaining options are the other sources of free news written by who knows who, with who knows what agenda, relying on who knows what sources.
None, for example.
You may think ‘traditional’ media written on paper and sold in shops is retro, but there were checks and balances in place; regulators, business addresses, real journalists with names.
Not perfect, but at least traceable.
My favourite columnist is Caitlin Moran because she’s hilarious, wildly talented, clever, inventive, and prolific. She writes for The Times, which means her online work exists behind a ‘paywall’.
Google Caitlin Moran and there’s very little that’s freely available.
Call me old fashioned but I reckon that being hilarious, wildly talented, clever, inventive, and prolific, is something you should expect to be paid for. On the days when she’s in the paper I often buy it, because reading her makes me snort with laughter.
And that’s well worth a couple of quid.
Other times I buy The Guardian, which unfortunately doesn’t include Caitlin Moran, but does include several slightly less funny columnists and lots of news and opinion written by people who know things and understand how to write them down.
If you want to read the free stuff, or the stuff that’s packaged up as an excuse to sell you something, then that’s your choice.
But you’ll have to do your own quality control.