Category Archives: pay walls

Behind the Pay Wall

 

 
 

The monetizing of the internet and of cable TV is shutting out those of us whose incomes will not allow us to enjoy the mental stimulation we crave. Almost every news source on the internet is becoming unavailable unless the reader pays a monthly fee. The most common fee is $20/month. So if you want to read The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Washington Post(?), and The Huffington Post it will cost you $100 each month. Yikes! Fortunately The Daily Beast has not started charging, and several sources will at least send you a small summary of the day’s stories by email. If you want to read Publishers’ Weekly, forget about it; it’s very expensive. However, PW will send you a “tip sheet” by email for free, as will The Huffington Post.

It looks like this is a trend that will escalate and that it will become difficult to access any content unless a fee is paid. We already have been paying fees to download music, apps, and movies; to play games; to store data in the cloud, and for many other services. If the fees remain as high as they are right now, many low income people will find the internet a thin place indeed, without many interesting destinations. At that point the internet will just become a marketplace, limiting surfers to only what services they can afford. At that point the internet will be just another thing that belongs to and caters to people with money. We’re almost there now and I am having a hard time with this. I understand that internet offerings require the technical and intellectual services of writers and coders and that these people must be paid. However, I suspect that extra padding has been added to fees so that serious profits can be made. Will your customer base erode? Will we just increase the cultural distance between the haves and the have-nots?

Cable TV is going the same way in its pursuit of profits. The creation of specialized dramas written to attract an adult audience by offering TV fare that is far superior and more unique than what networks usually offer has been very effective. Apparently well written and carefully filmed shows have become all the rage and lots of public and private conversation centers around what is happening in the plots of these often critically acclaimed dramas (much like what used to occur with relation to the less critically acclaimed soap operas). However, you must have a pretty hefty cable package to get most of these specially designed offerings and by hefty I mean expensive. These shows often require that the viewer purchase premium channels or they may require a DVR or whatever device allows one to save a show for a more convenient viewing time.  Some of these titles include Breaking Bad(AMC), Boardwalk Empire (HBO), Downton Abbey (PBS), Homeland (Showtime), The Newsroom (HBO), Mad Men (AMC), Damages, Game of Thrones (HBO), The Walking Dead, The Americans, House of Cards, Dexter, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Southland, Entourage, Orphan Black, Suits, The Sopranos, The Wire, Continuum, Californication, Arrested Development, The White Queen, Orange is the New Black, and more. You can rent these shows from Netflix (in fact Netflix is now producing some of these shows), also for a monthly fee. Once again we are making the best and most popular entertainment, the entertainment those in the know are discussing, unavailable to people with lower incomes.

You may assume that those with low incomes are not interested in these things but this is not always the case. Cultural resources have always been exclusionary because of costs but now we are charging extra for media that has, until recently, been available for free or at acceptable costs. What we ought to be doing is calculating the overheads to make sure they are covered and keeping profits at reasonable levels, which I doubt is what has occurred. To repeat my previous argument, I am getting the impression that people are going right for very healthy profit margins, margins that are perhaps healthier than they need to be. Don’t add to the distance between the rich and the poor in this country by putting intelligent reading, viewing, and discourse out of reach. If you can’t tear down the pay walls, at least build lower walls.
 
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