This is bogus. Of course, some of the people in the pro-paywall camp are bean counters. Hey, it takes beans to make chili (unless you’re from Texas, where I was born. But I digress). If you hadn’t noticed, there aren’t many beans left to count. We could use a few.

Certainly, a good number of newspaper owners are just liquidating their properties, as Jack Shafer writes. They’re generally the ones who never invested much in journalism anyway.

I could care less about the shareholders of The New York Times and Washington Post companies. I suspect that the long-term survival of the NYT and other newspapers could necessitate a bankruptcy restructuring, and that wouldn’t be all bad. I’m more concerned about the Times-Picayune and the Los Angeles Times (which, contra Simon, does have a paywall), say, than I am with the random Gannett profit harvester. What’s the point of saving something that’s not worth saving?

And anyway, at this point, the anti-paywall folks are the old guard, as Owens calls pro-paywall people. The free thing has been tried. It hasn’t worked. Let’s try something different.

9. “Paywalls don’t address the fundamental issues facing newspapers.”

The fallacy here is that paywalls prevent newspapers from addressing their fundamental issues. They don’t. They give them a bit more money to address them.

10. “Paywalls continue the history of newspapers avoiding meaningful innovation.”

Of course, newspapers successfully charging their readers for news online is the very definition of a meaningful innovation.

I’m all for doing whatever you can to bring in money to support a robust news operation, and the leaky paywall doesn’t and shouldn’t preclude further innovation. If Owens has any better ideas, perhaps he’d like to share them.

Here’s the bottom line: Does a paywall bring in more subscription revenue than it loses in advertising revenue? If it does—and we’ve seen that they can and do—why are we still talking about this?


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.