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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

how FlickFilosopher.com and ‘The New York Times’ are alike (hint: it’s about paywalls, or lack thereof)

Felix Salmon at Wired explains why the very porous paywall at The New York Times is a good thing:

Yes, the NYT paywall is porous — but that’s a feature, not a bug. It allows anybody, anywhere, to read any NYT article they like. That makes the NYT open and inviting…

But here’s the thing about freeloaders: if they value what they’re getting, a lot of them will end up paying anyway. What happened when the Indianapolis Museum of Art moved to a free-admission policy? Its paid membership increased by 3%. When the Minneapolis Institute of Arts did the same thing, paid membership increased by 33%.

Sales people and business-side executes tend to believe as a matter of faith that if people can get something for free, they won’t pay for it. But all they need to do is look at their own behavior to see how that isn’t true: when they go to a restaurant in a distant town that they’ll never visit again, they still leave a 20% tip. A large segment of the population feels that it’s only proper to pay for something if you’re getting value from it — and if you invite as many people as possible onto your lawn, that’s a great way of maximizing the number of people who get value from it. Especially in a world where your own enjoyment of it doesn’t impinge on anybody else’s.

This is the same principle I’ve been operating under with my subscription model… and I’ve been doing it since before the Times implemented its paywall! I’m, like, a Web pioneer, or something.

Unlike the Times, there is no corporate money backing me up. But if this subscription-of-conscience stuff can work for a big corporate entity, how can it not work for me?

You know what would be great? If the next time someone like Felix Salmon is writing about how, contrary to conventional wisdom, people are willing to pay for online content they value, he could include a little boutique site such as FlickFilosopher.com alongside the Times and major arts institutions.

Here’s the best bit from Salmon:

Paying for something you value, even when you don’t need to, is a mark of a civilized society.

Please be civilized. Please don’t be a freeloader. Please subscribe to FlickFilosopher.com at only $1 per month (or more if you’re so inclined). Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.

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