I have noticed the the Times newspaper has now put up a paywall, meaning that articles cannot be read on it without being paid for. I managed to gain access nontheless thanks to my advanced web skills – and without breaking the law – but I will not mention how for fear of embarassing the Times’ web programmers.
I think it is interesting that the media have chosen to do this. It certainly goes against the spirit of the World Wide Web, which was conceived as free by its inventor, Tim Berners Lee. That the media have chosen this business model perhaps suggests that revenues are falling in the Internet age and new ways of generating income are required.
I don’t think it was a necessary move. The media has an at best passing relationship to the reality of things as they occur, and it is all too easy for professional journalists who work in the media everyday to lose sight of the vocation of journalism and treat the media gestalt instead as a national text, to be sprinked with literary devices. Speaking as someone who has heard all manner of stories over the past five years I think it is fair to say that the media masticates, but doesn’t report on, much more than it reports on, to the point where any relatively intelligent switched on person would be forgiven for thinking the narrative of the national media a fairy tale, told to keep those of us lucky enough to be ignorant of the truth under the impression that the world is a stable and likeable place where forward progress is always happening.
Charging for web access is recidivist, a signal that the media has defiantly rebelled against newer models of media in the Information Age. Perhaps this was done solely because Rupert Murdoch cannot get his head around them. A younger world powerful media figure might have suggested that the Information Age is drawing us closer to a time where everything – films, music, and yes, even news – has to be free, and a way simply has to be found of making money from this. Mariah Carey included audio adverts on her last CD in the anticipation that it would be illegally shared on MP3 much more than it was bought in the stores. She understands that just because people are not paying for it does not mean that their attention to it cannot be sold for money. Commercial radio stations are to all intents and purposes free and yet make a profit year on year.
Perhaps the media has set up these paywalls to patch up the broken infrastructure of their industry. There is something about the media these days, when I look at it, which seems like all the journalists and media professionals I see are playing a character of a journalist rather than actually doing the job of one. The media reminds me somewhat of that famous painting, C’est ne pas un pipe. Certainly, public figures I have spoken to report the media as sometimes impossible to talk to. That is certainly my experience.
He won’t like me saying this, but perhaps it is time for Rupert to release his death grip on capitalism and let someone else take over making decisions like this.