Walter Isaacson Doesn’t Subscribe to The New York Times

newspaper020509 Walter Isaacson Doesnt Subscribe to The New York TimesIn next week’s Time magazine, Walter Isaacson turns his attention to the newspaper industry’s troubles, asserting that the way publishers currently operate "is not a business model that makes sense."

Mr. Isaacson, the CEO of The Aspen Institute and the former top editor at Time, started his career in newspapers, and was also an engineer of Pathfinder, Time Inc.’s early—but failed—news portal, so you’d think he would be a hard-core print partisan. Not so:

The problem is that fewer of these consumers are paying. Instead, news organizations are merrily giving away their news. According to a Pew Research Center study, a tipping point occurred last year: more people in the U.S. got their news online for free than paid for it by buying newspapers and magazines. Who can blame them? Even an old print junkie like me has quit subscribing to the New York Times, because if it doesn’t see fit to charge for its content, I’d feel like a fool paying for it.

After sifting through some possible industry-saving scenarios, like eliminating papers’ print editions (hello, Christian Science Monitor!) or waiting out "the long winter," Mr. Isaacson makes a proposal:

I am hoping that this year will see the dawn of a bold, old idea that will provide yet another option that some news organizations might choose: getting paid by users for the services they provide and the journalism they produce.

One of the obstacles standing in the way of users paying for content, according to Mr. Isaacson, is Internet service providers, which "get to charge customers $20 to $30 a month for access to the Web’s trove of free content and services. As a result, it is not in their interest to facilitate easy ways for media creators to charge for their content."

What’s strange about that statement is the fact that Time Warner Cable—which announced in May 2008 its intention to spin off from Time Warner but hasn’t been approved to do so yet—is the country’s second-largest provider of cable and boasts of delivering 8.3 million high-speed services to residential customers in 28 states on its Company Highlights page.

Presumably some of those end users are reading newspapers—not to mention Time, Inc. publications—for free.

That is, when they’re not watching pirated Warner Brothers movies like The Dark Knight, which Brian Stelter and Brad Stone in today’s New York Times report has been illegally downloaded "more than seven million times around the world."

Article continues below
More from Politics
STAR OF DAVID OR 'PLAIN STAR'?   If you thought "CP Time" was impolitic, on July 2 Donald Trump posted a picture on Twitter of a Star of David on top of a pile of cash next to Hillary Clinton's face. You'd think after the aforementioned crime stats incident (or after engaging a user called "@WhiteGenocideTM," or blasting out a quote from Benito Mussolini, or...) Trump would have learned to wait a full 15 seconds before hitting the "Tweet" button. But not only was the gaffe itself bad, the attempts at damage control made the BP oil spill response look a virtuoso performance.  About two hours after the image went up on Trump's account, somebody took it down and replaced it with a similar picture that swapped the hexagram with a circle (bearing the same legend "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!"!). Believe it or not, it actually got worse from there. As reports arose that the first image had originated on a white supremacist message board, Trump insisted that the shape was a "sheriff's star," or "plain star," not a Star of David. And he continued to sulk about the coverage online and in public for days afterward, even when the media was clearly ready to move on. This refusal to just let some bad press go would haunt him later on.
Donald Trump More Or Less Says He’ll Keep On Tweeting as President