To Paywall or not to Paywall?


Editor's Note: In response to the somewhat frantic emails I've been receiving today, let me reiterate (pre-iterate?) what it says in large text below: this is not something we're considering. I would not expect anyone to pay for the free blog you've come to know and love and tell your friends about. If you like what you read here on a daily basis, I'd love you to take our relationship to the magazine subscription level. But please stop worrying that we're about to send you a bill (and please stop emailing to tell me about those worries). I'll let David take it from here... --Jason

What if you came back to this blog tomorrow and suddenly found most of our content now hidden behind a paywall? How much would you be willing to fork over for your daily _floss fix?

Okay, take a breath.

Relax! Don't worry! We have no intention of doing any such thing.

I just raise the question because it's a hot topic right now in the social media world. Obviously, the idea behind blogs and social media is that it's meant to be consumed and shared. But paid content can't be shared, unless, of course, those receiving the link subscribe to the same paid content.

It's such a hot topic right now, that The Economist, which hides a lot of its print magazine content behind online paywalls, has declared 2010 "The year of the paywall," citing numerous newspapers and magazines that will try to adopt the Wall Street Journal's successful model of charging for a lot of its online content. The New York Times is considering such a switch, and, according to The Economist article, "Even the Guardian, a British newspaper that has long been an evangelist for free news online, has launched a paid-for iPhone application (though accessing stories is free once the app has been downloaded)."

We're all so used to major news sites like The New York Times being free, you can understand why it's such a hot topic. An Ipsos/PHD survey recently found that 55% of consumers "would be very or extremely unlikely to pay for online newspaper or magazine content."

According to this piece on's Mediashift, "After New York's Newsday locked most of its content behind a paywall, its web traffic dropped by 21 percent. On top of that, longtime Newsday columnist, Saul Friedman, resigned over the decision to charge. One of the reasons he cited for his resignation was that a pay wall would prevent him from sending his column to people who don't subscribe to Newsday."

What about you all? Do you fall into the above quoted survey's 55% or the other 45%? Give us a reason or two to back your position. The debate starts now...