No Such Thing as a Free Lunch or Newspaper

There is no such thing as a free lunch or, apparently, an online major metropolitan newspaper. Just the other day, the Chicago Sun-Times announced that they are no longer providing free access to their online website. Visitors will be able to see the front page to any section or category but will not be able to click into the story link unless they have ponied up a monthly fee.

To tease the visitor to anteing up the monthly fee, the Sun-Times is allowing up to 10 article views a month. That obviously does not go a long way. But, here is the deal- the newspaper operation is not getting my money. Will I miss getting the news or reading my favorite columnist? No. Is that direct enough? The writers are all opinionated- no better or worse than my own. And there are other ways to get the news. For example, if I want to know the score of a Cubs or Bulls game, I can go to their websites and get all the details without jaded observations and comments.

The thing is that some mogul at the news media conglomerate decided that it is better to not give away information for free. I will argue in return that they are not giving it away because there is advertising plastered all over the website. Hopefully they are making money on that advertising. Of course, they will return the argument and say that they have paid advertising on their printed copy and they still charge for a subscription or a purchase at a newsstand.

I will politely counter that the rules have changed. There is an extra cost in delivering a hard-copy edition of the news to a store or a residential doorstep. There is no extra cost in delivering the news to any and every potential internet reader. When you put something up on a website, the cost is the same for one or one hundred thousand to view it. Okay, you can make an argument that the more visitors to a site, the larger the bandwith is needed and the more powerful the webserver. Granted, but that is something that can be taken care of with online advertising.

Yes, this a case of miscalculated greed. I predict that they will not acquire the number of paid subscriptions as they hope. Even if the Chicago Tribune, its major rival for news attention in the Windy City, should go with an online paid subscription policy, it still will not force Internet users to spend the money for the news. Historically, the model is not there and will not change overnight.

Good luck to the Chicago Sun-Times. It was nice reading you online. I won’t cry over not reading Rick Morrisey and his buddies. I’d rather spend the money on lottery tickets.