Someday, Paywalls Are Going to Kill Blogging

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Andrew Sullivan is leaving the Daily Beast and striking out on his own. (Or re-striking out, I suppose, since he was on his own originally until he began blogging for magazine employers.) For now, his plan is to eschew advertising and simply charge a yearly fee for access to the blog:

Some people I bump into ask me how we produce 240 posts a week (13,000 separate posts last year alone) or how we read the 90,000 emails we get a year. I have a simple answer: we work our asses off. And my colleagues and I deserve to be paid for it….If this model works, we’ll have proof of principle that a small group of writers and editors can be paid directly by readers, and that an independent site, if tended to diligently, can grow an audience large enough to sustain it indefinitely.

No argument there. From a purely selfish point of view, though, this is a trend that’s a real problem for blogging. I currently subscribe to three newspapers: the LA Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. This costs me over a thousand dollars a year, but I need to have access to all these sites to do my job decently. But as more and more media sites start erecting paywalls, I simply won’t be able to afford to keep up all the subscriptions. Andrew’s 20 bucks a year is obviously fairly small change compared to subscription fees from big media operations, but as more and more sites go down this path, my choices are going to get harder and harder.

This isn’t the biggest deal in the world at the moment. It’s just worth a mention. Blogging has always been critically dependent on having free access to a wide variety of media, since you need to trawl through huge amounts of material to find the occasional pieces you want to write about. But as free access gets rarer, blogging is going to get harder. I wonder what it’s going to be like a decade from now?

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