The Seattle Times says they're gonna build a paywall in mid-March, so if you want website access, you'll have to pay up. You can either subscribe to the tree-on-your-porch edition (thereby getting yourself get a free online subscription, too) or shell out $4 a week just to read the website.
Hundreds of commenters are not happy. "I'll miss reading your comments when the Seattle Times starts charging for access and 80-90% of us disappear from the comments board," says one of 'em.
But as executive editor David Boardman explains, "our primary source of revenue—advertising—is declining locally and nationally and no longer supports our costs to the degree it once did."
Boardman then compares the Seattle Times and its "quality journalism" to the New York Times, which erected a paywall in 2011. But let's be real: I've read the New York Times. I've paid for the New York Times. I've let the New York Times into my home. And the Seattle Times is no New York Times. The Gray Lady is irreplaceable. In contrast, much of the Seattle Times is completely replaceable content from news services—including the New York Times—which can be read elsewhere for free or with more stories.
It seems the Seattle Times is banking on legions of online-only subscribers who don't know that lots of other—and sometimes better—local news content exists for free. Savvier readers will just piece together stories from smaller newsrooms that have more insightful and more granular reporting anyway. Places like West Seattle Blog, Capitol Hill Seattle blog, Seattlepi.com, PubliCola, Seattle Transit Blog, the Sunbreak, and Ye Old Slog are arguably piecemeal, but add in mainstream city and state coverage from places like the Everett Herald, Tacoma News Tribune, KIRO, KING, KOMO, KCPQ—including the AP coverage—and you've got a complete breakfast. Aggregating all that is easy with Twitter. The future of the internet is people who do that. Putting aside those who have to read the news for their jobs, the quintessential Seattle Times readers will be those without the wherewithal—older, unsavvy, politically disengaged and socially isolated consumers—to assemble that scattered content. So while the Seattle Times will almost certainly see a short-term jump in revenue, their target demographic will dwindle as people become more web-competent and old people die off.
But I'm often wrong. And Slog polls are always right. So...