Turning inner space into outer space

December 9, 2012

Why bloggers hate paywalls

Some people think paywalls for newspaper websites are a good idea. Some people don’t. But here’s something I’ve noticed — the people who hate them most are bloggers.

Why would that be?

Let’s have a look at the structure of a typical blog post, including this one. It’s made up of opinions based on articles that other people have written. In this case, my opinion is based on observations I’ve made about other people’s blog posts. But in many cases, a blog post is based on articles with original research in them.

For example, one of these posts might start with an introduction to a topic, then use a blockquote from an article about that topic. This is then followed by the blogger’s opinion of it. I have nothing against this format. I’ve used it myself and I especially enjoy reading blog posts that bring insight to a subject this way.

But let’s face it, the articles that bloggers quote from are often written by people who had to do research. And by research, I don’t mean doing Google searches.

The writers of these articles had to make phone calls and interview people who know what they’re talking about. Interviews like this often involve long distance charges, and at the very least suck up a lot of time. Plus, a well-researched article should have at minimum two or three interviews to ensure a good range of perspectives.

But even that may not be enough.

Good research often means going to the person’s office or home for the interview. Or you might have to go to a meeting or an event. That adds the expense of transportation and even more hours of time.

Time and money, time and money. These are things bloggers have precious little of. They don’t make much money from their work and what little they do make comes from blogging frequently. You can’t post if you’re tied up with talking to people and driving around town.

So, yes, it makes sense to let someone else do the legwork, then add your own commentary. But wait a minute — what if those articles you want to quote are behind a paywall? That’s an expense that a blogger trying to eke out a living doesn’t need. They’ll post a plethora of reasons for why they’re opposed to paywalls, but the fact that it hits them in the wallet never seems to come up.

Many of them are savvy enough to find ways around paywalls, but they usually (in an effort to maintain credibility) provide a link to the source article. Will people want to follow these links knowing that they could count toward their allotment at a metered site? Will bloggers want to use workaround links, knowing this makes them look shady?

Yes, the clouds of obscurity so often part and let in the light of veracity when you follow the money.