Someone was like “Yo that’s not cool linking to articles behind a paywall.”
I’m saying you won’t pay for @WSJ but you got thirteen dollars a month for netflix?? World’s gonna eat you dog
— Downtown Josh Brown (@ReformedBroker) March 5, 2020
Like Josh I get this response ALL THE TIME. I try to do my best to find content that is not behind a paywall, but it is increasingly difficult to find quality content like that. In the financial space there are only so many non-paywalled bloggers that do what they do. Recently Bloomberg, The Atlantic and Fortune have all put up paywalls. Mainstream news organizations like the aforementioned WSJ, New York Times, FT and Washington Post have long been behind paywalls.
Apple News+ was one attempt to try and tame this subscription beast, but by all accounts it has been a failure. For a fee, the newly launched service Scroll, lets you surf ad-free, and Scroll, in turn, pays participating publications when you visit their sites. The challenge for Scroll is adoption and reaching critical mass. Jacob Kastrenakes at The Verge writes:
The difficult part will be getting readers to sign up. People are used to reading the web for free, and — even if they don’t like it — everyone expects ads across the web. Some people turn to ad blocking, but most just let it go.
One of the benefits of paying for content is that reading experience is far superior. For sports fans visiting a site like The Athletic is a breath of fresh air. All you see is content: no ads, no hype. The Athletic may be the biggest experiment, after the The National, in paid sports journalism. It has attracted a slew of writers in the US and abroad that used to cover their teams for the local media.
The Athletic has launched in the UK, largely on the back of coverage of the Premier League. Oliver Franklin-Wallis writing at GQ UK recently profiled the company and noted its existential challenge:
Therein lies the challenge, both for the Athletic and the wider industry: how to stand out in the age of “peak content”. There’s too much to watch, too much read, too much to listen to. Despite the occasional dig, almost every sports writer I spoke to welcomed the Athletic’s arrival. For once, in an industry that for years had been essentially telling writers their work was worthless, here was somebody trying to show that their work had value, that they had value.
Ben Strauss in the Washington Post also recently wrote about the business side of The Athletic and the prospects for it eventually get bought out by a larger media entity. But the challenge remains: are there enough people willing to pay even a modest amount to get access to higher quality sports-related content.* Strauss writes:
The company is not just a lifeline for a specific kind of sportswriter. It’s a bet that that same sportswriter still has value to consumers — that, even in a world where leagues employ their own beat writers, where hobbyist bloggers and podcasters flood the Internet with content, there remain enough fans who will pay for coverage from professional sportswriters.
Who knows, maybe there aren’t enough people willing to pay for that type of content? We will find out. Likely sooner rather than later.**
*Here are a couple of recent longer former pieces at The Athletic that caught my eye: The enduring pain of Dick Vitale and Popular Indy radio hosts Jack Query, Derek Schulz adjust to life with no mic.
**I am a paid subscriber to The Athletic. You can probably guess which way I hope things go for them.