Starting a few minutes ago it will now cost you to read more than 20 articles a month on the New York Times' website. I estimate that I will reach my quota the day after tomorrow, if not sooner. And then?
It is a dilemma. As a sometime freelance writer I know that writing for online or print media is garnering less and less pay, unless you are an established literary heavy hitter. Journalists are being laid off left, right and centre. Many writers on major blogs work for nothing. Link love. The result will be - and is - poorer and poorer articles, inevitably, as little compensation means you can afford to spend as little time writing as possible (unless you are independently wealthy. And New York is still full of trust funds!). Write for six hours or days for less than $200 for over 1,000 words for an established, respected publication. Or 400 words for $25, as some new media lovingly advertises?
That is the new online reality. This is the new sweatshop.
Good writing takes good time. Time is money. It really is.
So a revolution is inevitable.
The Times pays salaries of reporters (1,100) and editors who spend days, weeks, months working on - one hopes - well-told and researched stories all over the planet. How to pay the salaries when the income from print subscriptions has evaporated and advertising does not make enough?
Seeing both sides of the story is awful, because despite my argument in favor of paying for quality, I will not be paying $15 - $65 depending on the type of subscription [this has been corrected - I originally wrote $50, flat fee] a month to read The Times. I do not have health insurance. We live - albeit well - in a matchbox. We have no children to support, but the cat needs kibble. I need a new pair of boots.
I would pay $10. I wonder why they did not make it $10. Or even $5? For the little people? I know. Even the little people want big news.
How many of you are signing up and on, and why?
How I feel after a month might be a world different from how I feel now. We shall see. In the age of the world wide, free Web, I was trained to expect the good stuff for free. Perhaps it's a matter of time before the Internet pendulum swings the other way and we realize that we must pay for what matters.