Like many other bloggers and technologists, I’ve written bitterly about the registration walls being thrown up around online versions of popular newspapers. The Globe and Mail is only the most recent example. As a newspaper writer, Clive Thompson (whose Slate gig I covet) provides a very even-handed look at the problem:
Many newspapers are going this route, citing the obvious reason: They’re losing money because web surfers don’t buy a print copy. (That isn’t a chimerical concern; I have many friends who do precisely this.) There’s also the distinct possibility of the newspaper making a bit of coin off selling the email lists to online marketers, who apparently will pay rather insane rates — up to $300 per thousand — for addresses. Being a guy who occasionally writes for newspapers, and who reads them voraciously and wants them to survive, I’m in favor of anything they need to do to make ends meet.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Newspapers are part of our national heritage, and our government should be incentivising them to not only make them freely available online, but to archive and store them responsibly for future generations. If the historic importance of newspapers is a topic that interests you, go read Double Fold by Nicholson Baker. It’s densely-written, but highly informative.