NGL, I’m not a fan of paywalls of any kind. While it’s not a massive problem for sites like CyclingTips because no one lives or dies based on their content (sorry, not sorry), in a broader sense paywalls create an information divide between the haves and the have-nots. Basically punishing those with thinner wallets by depriving them of information, which reinforces the broader economic and cultural issues in our society. In many ways, I think this kind of resource guarding is anti-democratic, and even if it’s not explicitly so, it definitely helps reinforce class divisions both in information and wealth.
Climbing off my soapbox, I do think it’s interesting that CyclingTips has decided to implement a “metered paywall” (i.e. a number of free articles per month) to reduce their dependence on advertising (repeating their claim here). So does that mean that this huge ad that requires scrolling through two screens before getting to any real content won’t be there anymore if I cough up the $4/month?
Obviously as a content producer, I can absolutely see their side of things; my site is in no way profitable and the level of content that they produce definitely has value well above nothing (note, I am not making any claims regarding the value of my content ;)). So it definitely makes sense that they would want to get paid some amount which is sustainable, and consistent with the quality of the content they produce. I guess this is a long winded way of saying that I’m conflicted.
Do I think that CyclingTips produces 25% of the value of a Netflix subscription? LOL, no… Would I pay $48/year to be blessed with more than three CyclingTips thought pieces per month? Again, no… But value is a highly personal thing, so I can see how others might.
The larger question is probably whether they have the reach and audience to do this kind of thing? When I examine my own behavior regarding the New York Times which has a similar model, I don’t read their thought pieces because if they suck (and they usually do) that’s one of my articles, and I also skip their news because news is highly fungible. The net effect personally, is that I mostly skip New York Times content because it’s not worth dealing with the hassle.
Maybe I’m crazy though.
A metered paywall keeps CyclingTips free to anybody passing through – the millions of bike people who will visit a couple times per month or per year – while simultaneously standing up for the value of what we create. It asks readers who appreciate our work and engage with it frequently to support that work financially.