Followers of @FreeNYT: Principled or just cheap?
It is an article of faith among the digitally inclined that only losers pay for – or try to charge for – content. After all, the Web was built on collaboration, open networks and a friction-free flow of information. And The Times’s attempt – however considered, however nuanced – is an offense against that theology.
I am at a bit of a disadvantage here. I buy hamburgers for my family by typing for The Times, so my self-interest is hard to write my way around. If The Times finds $100 million or so in digital revenue while still maintaining its base of print advertisers, I can still keep typing, blogging and making videos here.
But beyond my craven economic interests, I also have an almost equally religious interest in a steady flow of information on stories big and small. Some high priests of digital culture will spend enormous amounts of time on workarounds that will beat the paper’s leaky wall or do their best to belittle Times content.
But there are other people — and I met a surprising number in Austin — who are less interested in gaming a new pay apparatus or assembling a new information diet than they are in paying for the information they want, whether from The Times or elsewhere. I wouldn’t call those people losers or apostates. I’d call them readers.
-David Carr, “Paying for The Times at SXSW”
They say the best things in life are free, but does that include online content? On March 28, the New York Times will launch its global paywall. Readers will be able to read up to 20 online articles each month for free. After that, they’ll be asked to choose among different digital subscription options.
But the Gray Lady isn’t exactly on lockdown. The homepage and section fronts will still be browsable. The Top News section will remain free via phone and tablet apps. Readers can also access content through links on search, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s no wonder some have coined this initiative a pay “fence”.
And for now (but maybe not for long) there’s also @FreeNYT on Twitter. All the account’s linked New York Times features, slideshows, and videos can be accessed gratis.
So why are people still up in arms about the paywall? Is it the principle — the religious ideology that the Internet exists to provide free information, as David Carr mentioned? Or are people just cheap? And is the refusal to pay for content denigrating the work of journalists?
No Teach Hunch About You (THAY) questions specifically tackle these issues. But Hunch has another tool in its belt to gain insight into this group, via Twitter Follower Stats. This tool taps into Hunch’s taste graph, based solely on a Twitter name, and reveals aggregate statistics about the followers of that Twitter user.
We used Hunch’s Twitter Follower tool to gain insights about the followers of @FreeNYT, and we also compared them to followers of @WSJ and @NewYorker, publications with longstanding paywalls.
|Money is a thang||Feel there are too many taxes
Believe money governs society most
Most desire obtaining wealth
Consider themselves average tippers
|Have an accountant do their taxes
The last thing they regret buying was over $5,000
Have made a charitable donation of at least $250 in the last year
Get equity/stock options at their jobs
|Spend up to $100 on a haircut
Have an accountant do their taxes
Have made a monetary donation to a political party or candidate in the last two years
|Media||Buy books at independent booksellers or online
Would read Vogue in a waiting room
Keep up with current events via online news sites
Have 0-2 magazine subscriptions
|Read the Harvard Business Review
Have 3-4 magazine subscriptions
Would read Business Week in a waiting room
Read Business section of the Sunday paper first
|Read Arts/Culture section of the Sunday paper first
Have 3-4 magazine subscriptions
Haven’t downloaded music illegally
Keep up with current events via newspapers and weekly magazines
|Ethics/Attitudes||Think the world needs more equality
Consider affordable healthcare a moral problem of society
Sentencing should be light in drug arrests for personal use
Would rather steal than beg
|Say “bless you” even when a stranger sneezes
Think teachers should receive merit-based pay
Are natural salespeople
|Think video games are a waste of time
Consider artistic achievements the most interesting aspect of human history
The U.S. Tea Party is bad for Democrats and Republicans
|For what it’s worth||Like working with numbers
Prefer crunchy tacos
Would photograph a stranger in the street without asking
|Prefer Veronica over Betty
Are premier members of a frequent flyer program
Go to bed early on weekdays
|Had a manicure in the last month
Haven’t changed a flat tire
Stay in the movie theater until the end credits are over
Mind you, the fewer followers a Twitter account has, the less refined the correlations via Twitter Follower Stats. @FreeNYT currently has 4,098 followers, compared to 730,404 and 646,319 at @WSJ and @NewYorker, respectively. We can’t definitely say whether these free content lovers drink Coke or Pepsi, but we bet they use Gmail.
What did you make of this? @FreeNYT followers seem to get more information online than in print and have strong opinions about equality and personal freedom. @WSJ and @NewYorker followers tend to answer questions in a way that suggests that they’ve got more disposable income. But is paying for content — along with the strong aversion to it — just about money?
The New Yorker has a depth of reportage and cachet that we don’t associate with a daily newspaper. Does this warrant paying for it? Do people who don’t want to pay for content think content creators and providers are already paid enough? Might @FreeNYT followers feel differently about work produced by an individual over content belonging to a large media entity? Surely, there are people who follow two or all three of these accounts. Does paying for one subscription make someone more or less open to paying for another?
How do you feel about the New York Times paywall? Are people following @FreeNYT in hopes of gaming the subscription model out of principle, or are they just cheap?