It feels like most information today is free, and it largely is. Movies and music are locked up in services like Netflix and Spotify, but most news and information is free, right?
It largely is, but the growing list of news outlets that are putting up paywalls is becoming troublesome. I don’t object to them doing that, as they deserve to get paid for what they do, but those paywalls are increasing causing division online.
Current Affairs listed this out, and you can easily see the split:
- The New York Times
- The New Yorker
- The Washington Post
- The New Republic
- New York
- The New York Review of Books
- The Financial Times
- The London Times
- Fox News
- The Daily Wire
- The Federalist
- The Washington Examiner
It’s easy to see why content from the second list spreads far faster and wider than content from the top list. I personally pay for some of the sources in the top list, and read pieces from some on the bottom, but my paying doesn’t help the problem. Heck, it might be making it worse by encouraging them to keep using the paywall model.
It’s not unlike when a new scientific study comes out. YouTube videos that summarize the study (right or wrong) are completely free, but actually seeing the study itself generally costs money. As a result, the “research” that most people end up doing is simply watching the videos rather than digging into the study itself.
I don’t have a good answer here. Our world would be well-served by having open access to the sites on the top to help balance things out. Those sites aren’t always right, for sure, but getting more conflicting viewpoints into the world is generally a good thing. It’ll be interesting to see how news-focused business models change in the coming years and if this is able to resolve itself or not.