Would I Pay to Keep the NYT Afloat?

It’s been a year and a half since the New York Times introduced its paywall (I criticized it on day one at The Atlantic) and my feelings about it have largely stayed the same. I don’t see myself paying for it. And it really does pain me to say that, as I love the Times.

But via the Nieman Lab I came across a fascinating study about readers willingness to pay for access to the paper:

“When participants were provided with a compelling justification for the paywall — that The New York Times was likely to go bankrupt without it — their support and willingness to pay increased,” Cook and Attari concluded.

I believe it. I feel a twinge of pain thinking about the paper going under. But my view is still basically the same as it was before the paywall went up.

There are two reasons I won’t pay for The New York Times.

1. I don’t need it, and therefore would rather be asked to give rather than required to pay.

2. If I am going to give, I don’t want to subsidize the Sytle section. I want my dollars going directly to civic journalism.

Much of what the Times does, while compelling and of high quality, isn’t essential. And if I’m just reading features for pleasure, in this day and age I can get lots of great stuff for free. The reason to pay is to preserve international reporting, war reporting, non-horse-race political reporting, etc.

If I’m going to make a donation for that kind of thing, right now I’m more likely to give to someplace like ProPublica that is both structured as a nonprofit and narrowly focused on civic journalism.