Free Content



2013-12-22 – We’ve all heard the lament that the Internet has fragmented the body politic by letting people choose their sources of information. Liberals read liberal sources, conservatives read conservative sources, and few cross over. It’s a serious divide in our country.

There’s another divide. It’s the divide between people who pay for Internet content and people who don’t. I am a people who don’t.

There’s so much of it, you know! It’s not even a question of affording it. I used to buy a paper every day and I had subscriptions to magazines. But on the Internet, I could never finish reading the free stuff. So why would I pay?

The providers who charge are keenly aware of this attitude. That is the reason so many newspapers and magazines have gone belly up. I’ve got to give them credit. They keep trying different schemes.

Some providers give you access to some but not all of their content. The Wall Street Journal is like that. So is the New Yorker. Some providers give you access to a certain number of articles per month and then cut you off. The New York Times and the Washington Post are like this. A third type, which includes a lot of professional journals, give you only the lede or an abstract. You have to pay if you want to see the entire article.

I don’t pay.

But I got to thinking about how my reading differs because I don’t pay.

Sometimes I miss out on articles that I would like to read. This happens surprisingly rarely. Either the folks who sell premium content are failing to tantalize me or the premium content isn’t really better than the free content. I do miss out on the professional articles. I will pay for those if I need them, but that is also rare. I can usually find a free article that reports on the contents of the papers and often those articles go beyond the professional paper to provide context. This is particularly helpful for scientific articles.

Probably the biggest impact on my reading comes from the group that gives you a set number of free articles and then cuts you off. The consequence of this is that I am well informed up until, maybe, the 20th of the month when the free articles run out. Then nothing until the new month starts.

But that’s okay. There are only so many insightful articles a person can read. After that there’s always the lists, like: 20 Crafty Things You Didn’t Know About Syria; 15 Reason’s Miley Cyrus Won’t Be Elected to Congress; 12 Days of Christmas; 10 Crucial Tests of Obamacare; 7 Lucky Republicans; and 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (Just slip out the back, Jack).

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