Paying for the NYTimes.com

Tim Bower


The New York Times is surveying print subscribers (hey, why not me?) to see if they would consider paying an additional $2.50 per month to get the NYT.com content that is currently free. Non print subscribers, the survey explains, would have to pay $5.

This is silly. To be clear, I believe the NYT has every right to charge online readers, if they think that’ll work. Journalism takes money.  Journalism is essential for a healthy democracy.  Journalists work hard and deserve to be paid adequately for the work that they do. Yes, yes, I know all about Judy Miller, and some journalists are in it for their own fame. But many got in, and stay in, for the public good. And most toil away with no fame and an unclear future on the horizon.

How bad is it? The Times is the country’s best paper, and likely to be the last one standing. Yet management there recently sent out a memo telling staffers to cut out texting, calling 411, and making international calls on staff cell phones and Blackberries. (God forbid we talk to someone in Iraq.) The Bloomberg story which broke the $5 paywall story notes that not only has print advertising all but vanished but online ad sales at the NYT and its sister papers are way down too, falling “8 percent and 3.5 percent in the first quarter and fourth quarter of 2008 respectively. They gained 6.5 percent last year.” So much for the theory that online ads will (eventually) save us all.

So yes, charge online. And charge me for my crack-er-mobile access. I’ll totally pay. But man alive, are you really saying that if I keep paying for the print edition—which I’m only doing to do my part to keep you afloat, which costs me @ $1,300 a year, which comes at great green guilt despite SF’s recycling program—you’ll only discount me a small latte’s worth of the price you charge everybody else?

According to the Bloomberg piece there are only 647,695 weekday home subscribers. That’s a scary low number; MoJo has a little more than a third as many print subscribers. Until the Times, or somebody, anybody, figures out a revenue model to ensure reporting’s survival, I’ll pony up and pay the $1,300 and the damn $2.50 (x12=$30). But I wouldn’t count on most home subscribers to follow suit.

But perhaps the Times scheme will help do the messaging that journalists have been for too long too reticent to do. That we are what stands between you and governmental and corporate corruption. That following decades of deregulation, our watchdog powers are more in need than ever. That sustained beat reporting can’t be done by people in their spare time. That lovely features and beautiful photo essays and book and movie reviews and all the rest great journalistic institutions offer is what makes for a great Sunday morning and a bareable subway ride. And that the Daily Show or NPR or CNN or Rachel Maddow can’t do their job unless scores of other reporters do theirs. And that reporting takes money, dammit!

How can you support the reporting that Mother Jones does? You can subscribe, a bargin at a mere $15. Don’t like dead trees? Take heart in the fact that our paper is 90% recycled or get the digital edition. You can also help us by signing up to our newsletters. There’s a tipjar at the end of every story and blog post. You can give to our investigative fund, or our intern program in which we train the next generation of investigative journalists. Learn more here.

Clara Jeffery is Co-editor of Mother Jones. Read more of her stories here. And follow her on Twitter here.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate