Anti-paywall dead-enders: Why worry about evidence when you can argue against straw men?
In 1944, Lt. Hiroo Onoda was sent by the Japanese Army to the remote Phlippine Island of Lubang with instructions to never surrender to the Allies and to fight to the death.
“We’ll come back for you,” his commander wrote. “But until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that is the case, live on coconuts!”
At this point, the people opposing subscription models for American newspapers and advocating for them to be supported by digital ads (and unproven innovations somewhere in the future) are living on coconuts.
The war is over. The evidence is in. Newspapers, large and small, premium and not, gain additional revenue through subscriptions and lose little if anything in digital ads (UPDATED this sentence to add links to more evidence, since Digital First’s Jim Brady doesn’t like my Press+ link in the previous sentence.)
The Allies have won.
Dean Starkman, my boss and co-religionist, argued Monday that the Washington Post needs a paywall, and stat. We’ve been arguing this in one form or another for years now. And in the years we’ve been arguing this point, the industry has moved our way, along with the evidence that digital subscriptions can work. But there’s still an anti-paywall camp, and all too often its arguments are stuck in in the mid-2000s, ignoring events of the last few years.
Jeff Jarvis tweeted in response to Dean’s post: ‘CJR continues its monomaniacal crusade for pay walls. I want to psychoanalyze that.’
Alternatively, one could psychoanalyze sticking to the same digital ad strategy year after year after year and expecting a different result…