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The Pay-for-Content Argument

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In the latest issue of TIME magazine, former TIME managing editor Walter Isaacson (and the guy who hired me) makes the argument that for newspapers to survive, they need to begin charging for their online content. 

You can read his article for free here. 

Yeah, it’s a cheap shot, but everyone’s going to make it, so critical objectivity requires that I do too. And the piece is a worthwhile jumping off point for discussion, if only because the idea of micropayments and online subscriptions has suddenly become big in journalistic circles, if for no other reason than that journalistic circles are running out of money. (Even Gawker is calling for it.

In any event, like his idea or not, believe it’s practical or not, think it to be—in his daughter’s words—”evil” or not, Isaacson does make a point worth emphasizing: “free” media is not free. It’s paid for by someone or something—be it a subscriber or an advertiser or a foundation or the day job of someone blogging for free. It is therefore inevitably beholden to whomever pays. Do you want that to be you?

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