Paying for Quality


The Washington Post

Today, I’ve subscribed to the Washington Post and the New York Times. For me, this is a monumental decision. As a late gen Xer, I’ve never bothered to pay for journalism. At least not for world news. There has usually been a Motor Trend subscription. Maybe ESPN the magazine, but for my world news, I’ve always just read headlines, or used Google News.

When the New York Times installed the great paywall several years ago, I openly mocked them. Why would anyone pay for news? It is everywhere and it is free! The Times should learn to leverage advertising like everyone else, I proclaimed.

However, I’m now a business owner, writing software for Android phones. I have multiple products with multiple business models. Some just have ads, some are paid products and some are a hybrid. What I’ve learned is that not everything fits the advertising model. Advertising works well when the screen time to capital investment ratio is high enough. However, if the app always runs in the background, doing something awesome and unseen for the user? Ads don’t pay for that. Real money needs to change hands to cover such work. I’ve come to realize the same can be said for investigative journalism. If I want in-depth stories that took months to develop, I cannot expect my ten minute read to pay for that. I’ve got to part with some of the hard earned money that others have parted with to pay for my hard work. So, I’m now paying for the news.