It is “loose paywall” time at The Washington Post

Ezra explains, Matt offers some analysis.  I am very happy to pay full price, noting that I live around here, but in any case I plan to do so until the very end, for either them or me.  I do however see this as a further sign that the golden age of free links is over, forever.  Bloggers take note.  From what I understand of the paywall, Twitter connections will be free and this, along with other developments, will raise the relative import of Twitter.  Perhaps at some point Twitter will become so important that this is no longer price discrimination and Twitter cannot be allowed as a free way in.  But we remain far from that point, it seems to me.


If $10/month is the margin at which I choose whether or not to read a bunch of articles on the Washington Post website, I'm not getting much value out of those articles. I'm either wasting my time or my time isn't worth very much.

I suspect the bigger challenge would come from not KNOWING whether it will be worth $10 to read the very NEXT article the first time you hit your 20. You're not reading 200 articles a month and paying 5 cents per article. In some sense you're paying $10 for the 21st article. That's an ugly curve.

And it's not $10. It's $10 + the hassle of going through a registration process, and if you're at home rather than work the hassle of getting up to get your credit card. The transaction cost may be as big a deterrent as the price.

It's not the absolute value of Washington Post articles that matters; it's the value added over other content that is still free.

I get plenty of value out of reading a Washington Post article. However, I don't care particularly about the Washington Post; they are one of many reputable online news sources. Since plenty of other good news sources are still free, it is certainly not worth $10 a month to me. I will simply switch to other sources (after the 20 free articles per internet-connected device per month, that is).

What we see here is wage stickiness. The Post is lowering our wage for visiting them by 10 bucks a month, and we sure can get a pretty similar job reading the news in a different website, so we can easily switch. It's better for a source to delay the 'wage decrease' as much as possible, so that there are no good alternatives by the time they want to charge for content. At that point, they have a very large percentage of the market for news, and people can take it or leave it.

I'm sure they'd love to have some content central bank that could raise the cost of news for everyone by playing with interest rates, making tomorrow's free be the same as paying 10 dollars a month today.

As everyone goes to this sort of paymeter paywall, I wonder is there a readily available app that will track your visits to each website every month so you can spread everything out among outlets and thereby maximize your number of free visits.

Firefox: New Private Window

Yes. It is amazing how many people don't know these tricks. For internet explorer, just go to tools then inPrivate Browsing.

Or in Chrome, Ctrl-Shift-N for a new incognito window. Or, if you prefer the surgical approach, I've verified that clearing cookies from resets your article count...although I haven't done this while logged into the Post; I'm reluctant to log in any longer.

(Yes, I think it's fair to ask for payment for content, but I think this particular plan is crap. I'd much rather pay 5 cents per article, or if it has to be a monthly fee, $10 seems quite high, as I'd just limit myself to 20 articles a month if they found a way to enforce that. At $30 or even $40 per year, I'd probably sign up now, even with the easy ways to avoid the paywall.)

Also interesting that goverment workers are exempt if accessing from work. Imagine that's about the value of their eyeballs to the Post's specific advertisers, rather than the difficulty those readers might have in expensing the subscription.

Alternatively, paywalls will be the final nail in notional-newspaper coffins.

Because I can't think of any of them that are worth paying for; at this rate simply requiring registration means I move on and ignore all their content, period, instantly.

I think that a regional paywall might work for local news. That is, all the media outlets in a given area band together and come up with a revenue sharing scheme. They could allow outsiders (as determined by IP address) to see the content in the case of a story of national interest (i.e. the Newtown shootings).

Of course, coming up with a workable rev-share would be like herding cats.

You're right, local news CAN work that way, if only because there's no one else who covers it effectively. I can get my national stories anywhere, but if I want to read more about that fire down the block last week, the local paper's really the only place.

In the case of some major media outlets, they don't even cover stories. So you're paying to live in an information bubble, which I guess makes sense, but only if you want to exist inside that bubble.

The only newspaper I might consider subscribing to if they put up a paywall is the Guardian, which has been very vocal in resisting going to a paywall model.

The question to me is whether WaPo articles are $10 a month BETTER than other, free online newspapers, not if the content is worth $10 a month. I'm sure the content is worth $10 a month, but I'm not going to pay, because I can get almost-as-good quality news from other sources.

From my perspective, intellectuals, or those who wish to appear as intellectuals, fetishize the value of articles in high prestige publications like the New York Times or Washington Post, often adopting the affectation of calling it "The Times" and "The Post" to convey their close intimacy to these publications.

Call me unsophisticated, but I bet I can get pretty much the same value from free news sources. Major stories will be covered by publications across the country, even across the world: the Hindustan Times, the Guardian, all run a lot of US stories these days. The only place where papers really add true value is local coverage, and as a DC-area resident this might mean that 1-2 stories per day are presented to me as summaries on or Greater Greater Washington.

Why would we pay for extra Operation Mockingbird propaganda?

Hello! I'm working with author Hunter Lewis ( and wondered if you might be interested in hosting an interview or review posting at Marginal Revolution?

Would love to chat! Could you please shoot me an e-mail and let me know if you'd be interested?


Hilarious - this is a place that defines crony capitalism in action, not one that has any interest in discussing it.

I can't resist, even on the pain of this comment having a short shelf life - consider asking about how the Mercatus Center project to correct its faulty research reporting concerning government debt and growth is going. The reaction should reveal all you need to know.

I'm a little confused as to how it can be crony capitalism when the government is not involved? (not that there is any "faulty research reporting")

Anyone who believes that the energy industry (and those whose fortunes rely on it) is not intricately entwined with government in the U.S. must have lost their invitation to this - 'The Energy Task Force, officially the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG), was a task force created by then-U.S. President George W. Bush in 2001 during his second week in office. Vice President Dick Cheney was named chairman. This group was intended to “develop a national energy policy designed to help the private sector, and, as necessary and appropriate, State and local governments, promote dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound production and distribution of energy for the future."


The Task Force was composed of Vice President Dick Cheney and the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy, as well as other cabinet and senior administration-level officials. According to the GAO, these members held ten meetings over the course of three and a half months with petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electricity industry representatives and lobbyists. None of the meetings were open to the public and no non-federal participants were involved.'

Some people consider this wise government planning - other people call it crony capitalism. The one thing that both perspectives can agree on is that the major players in this area tend to have all sorts of interconnections - starting with the man heading the task force. And that fortunes rise and fall depending on the effectiveness of one's investment in the political process.

Just couldnt resist, could you? Couldnt walk by that dead horse one more time without pulling out your stick and beating it yet again.

So now PA thinks that MR is a production f the energy industry and government.

He really needs help

Since twitter links are exempt couldn't you simply link from a blog to a tweet with instructions to follow the link there to the WaPo article? Probably no need to tweet anything more than the WaPo destination.

This takes places tens of thousands of times a day w/ NYT articles.

Yes. Even more directly you could just link using twitter URL shorteners or anything that redirects through twitter. The wall is useless.

"The wall is useless."

Actually, it may be ideal.

The optimal situation for news outlets is to charge money to people who are willing to pay, while letting everyone who is not willing to pay read for free (so they can get ad revenue). Of course, this is not possible to implement. But a wall with lots of holes may come close. It gives those who are willing to pay reason enough to subscribe, while still letting in as many other people as possible. My guess is that the people who are messing around with twitter links or deleting browser cookies to get in for free were never going to pay in the first place.

Tyler, from what I understood it was all links: "visitors who come to The Post through search engines or shared links will still be able to access the linked page regardless of the number of articles they have previously viewed." In any case the search engines are great at detecting anything but the most ambiguous titles, so that's a very big "window".

I don't know what the difference between link and "shared link" is, but it seems to be very porous. It seems hard to connect this with the "end of free links". (Nothing near as strict – or expensive – as FT).

In any case, it's a clearly worthwhile investment if you're reading more than 20 articles a month.

Hadur, I'd agree with you – but WonkBlog is behind the paywall, that is a constant source of superb analysis, and I'd be out in two days!

In any case, it’s a clearly worthwhile investment if you’re reading more than 20 articles a month.

No, not really. As was pointed out above, it's way too expensive if you read 21 articles per month. And even if you read 40 articles per month you are paying $10 for an extra 20 articles. How many articles are there in a copy of the printed version and how much does it cost? The cost is probably less than a nickel an article.

It would be nice if a third party could step in with a service that bills people a small amount per article across multiple high quality news services. Most links should cost a user less than a dime to read. That's assuming first world pricing.

if its like the NYTimes , just delete your cookies and you
can go back as much as you want.

With both the NY Times and the LA Times I just use a Chrome incognito window. (control shift n). It starts a new cookie free window. I also use it for porn. Yeah, like everybody else doesn't.

For WSJ's paywall, you can just copy and google search the headline you want to read. The first link on Google's results page will be an ungated link to the article. This takes maybe 5 seconds and it gets you whatever you want to read on the site for free. I don't know if you can do this with other newspapers, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Even easier on Chrome: if you highlight text and right-click, one of the context menu choices is to perform a Google search on the selected text! :)

For me it is not the price it's the hassle. I assume that they will use a cookie to count traffic and that you will have to "free register" and get one. (Like the NYT) And do it again if you clear cookies like I do. Thus the hassle per article, even the first or second "free" one, is huge.

I'm not willing to pay $10 for WaPo, and $10 for the NYT, and $10 for the Financial Times, and $10 for the Podunk Gazette, etc. This whole model is ridiculous. I don't read newspapers anymore. Instead, I read columnists and I read news. News I can get from Yahoo and Google. And if Tom Friedman wants to put himself behind a paywall, that's just fine with me.

This whole thing is silly. It won't work except for (maybe) the local news market.

To Dan's point: Product that is ostensibly news is really a mixture of news and entertainment, and in many cases, much more entertainment than news.

News--true news--has a functional value. Knowing that there is a bear or burglar in the neighborhood is news. It's something I need to know for functional reasons. This is a non-commodity product. (Interestingly, targetted advertising is also news. If Trader Joe's is willing to give me half off on a case of wine, that's an actionable news item.)

On the other hand, most mainstream news stories are actually entertainment. For example, a story on the dissatisfaction of Chinese employees of Foxconn qualifies as entertainment, however grim it may be. It's generally nice to know, but it does not link to any action item for me (although it may be an important issue in China). I can substitute that story for one on say, the best Chinese restaurants in Arlington, Virginia. These are, in effect, fungible commodities, a few minutes diversion from other tasks. Can these sorts of stories be monetized in the age of the internet when we have industrious bloggers and website operators like Drudge, the indefatigable Tylers (Cowen and Durden), and meaningful commentators like Jim Hamilton or Scott Sumner, who are willing to work for free?

I have my doubts.

Fuck these guys: information wants to be free.

Oddly enough, though, reporters want to be paid.

An even more oddly enough, bloggers seem to have figured out how to either do it for free or get paid to do it without paywalls.

And even more oddly still, bloggers can't do everything that news organizations do, and mainly rely on news organizations as a source.

Ok, I don't really have much sympathy for the news corporations. I don't think their business model going down the tubes means doom is upon us. But somebody is going to have to perform the core "report the news" function, and that is a valuable service that requires money to operate. Shouting "information should be free" does not make this problem go away.

Information wants to be free have ads plastered all over the place.

It sucks that we've gone to a "free-but-advertising everywhere" model, when almost all parties would be better off just inserting a $20 bill into their computer on the first of each month and having it distributed proportionately to all the websites they visit.

But people would rather have "free*".

At this point I'm an unlikely subscriber. I imagine it will be some time before the web stops offering me interesting daily reads. If it does though, I wouldn't mind buying from a one-stop syndicate. That might be a way for these folk to sell to second-tier buyers ... people who only want a few more articles per month, and not enough over the free count to justify a single-site license.

These types of paywalls are comically easy to circumvent. The companies track usage with information that consumers provide. To circumvent their controls, simply alter the data you provide. The only way to guarantee payment is with an all or nothing paywall like FT.

I'm curious to find out what blog system you happen to be using? I'm experiencing some minor
security problems with my latest site and I would like to find
something more safe. Do you have any suggestions?

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