Mixing Media; and what we’ll pay for

I have a little media fantasy. Several, actually, but this is the big one, the one in which I get to assemble, as if I were putting together a new laptop, my ideal of a cable system.

I’d get to look at that vast array of choices, and I’d get to pick exactly what I want delivered straight to my televisions: Food Network and Cooking Channel, yes; MSG and Versus, yes; Tennis Channel, yes; PBS and BBC America, yes; NY1, yes.  CNN, no; Disney Channel, no; CNBC, no; Oxygen and Lifetime, no and no.

And this path to cable bliss would lead right to my Time Warner bill, which would magically, beautifully go down, because I’d have to pay for only the channels that I actually watch.

In some ways, I feel like the new New York Times pay wall is in a “pay for what you consume” mold. You get 20 free articles a month, and after that, you have to pay for what you read:  all-digital, unlimited access (computer, smart phone, iPad, etc.) is $8.75 a week; less expensive, more restricted options are also available.

As a writer whose work is often published digitally, I can’t complain about the pay wall. In a perfect world, my work would be available online for free always; but in a perfect world, I also get paid, and if everyone gets to read for free, then I probably have to write for free. It makes sense to me that we have to pay for what we, as readers, consume.

But I also get that that pay wall may well cause problems for the people who read this site, given the frequency with which I link to the Times. As a weekend print subscriber, I get unlimited digital access, and the historical racing coverage in the Times is invaluable – literally – to me. My weekend subscription costs about $250 a year, and for that archive access alone, it’s worth every penny. But I’ve heard from you how frustrating it is to click on a link and then SLAM! get denied by a pay wall.

[Click here and here for some preliminary assessments of the success of the pay wall.]

Paying for what you consume is at the heart of the Kickstarter model, which brings us to Kentucky Confidential, launched this week. A restaurant in my neighborhood recently used Kickstarter to help fund its opening, and the new Kentucky Derby media venture launched its crowdsourcing campaign in March. It didn’t look good for a while; while donations trickled in readily, with about a day to go, Kentucky Confidential was short nearly $10,000.

I followed the campaign as I researched this post, and it appeared that not long before the deadline, a major donor came through, nearly funding the project completely, and other donors followed, with the result that Kentucky Confidential was fully funded and began publishing yesterday. Is this good news, because someone was willing to put up enough money to fund the venture? Or is it bad news, because it appeared that not enough smaller donors would have led to the same result?

Donating to Kickstarter isn’t the equivalent of subscribing to a publication; those who didn’t donate can still access the site (like those among us who guiltily, or shamelessly, listen to public radio without becoming a member), though contributors do get some perks, as outlined on the Kickstarter page.

I confess that I have been among those at times unwilling to fork over the dollars for the information that I want.  In August 2009, I railed in the Saratogian about the crucial information hidden behind pay walls.  A month later, to the surprise and delight of many, Equibase made available, easily and for free, all charts going back to 1991. As a historical resource, it’s – what’s the word? – invaluable.

As readers, we can no longer rely on the hefty budgets of advertisers to subsidize our reading tastes, and thus the responsibility for paying for the information that we want falls to us. Again, there’s good news/bad news here. In the best of circumstances, we can fund what we want and ignore what we don’t (which raises interesting questions about the democratization of the news: at the risk of sounding elitist, the idea of the majority funding the news, and thus determining what is news, feels fraught with peril).  In less ideal situations, we pay a premium for what we want or need ($2.95 for ONE newspaper article, when the whole newspaper cost less than half that?).

But at least we’ve got options: options about prices, about sources, about how and how much we access. And I like that…especially when it doesn’t cost me much.

Now, back to my cable TV wish list…

5 thoughts on “Mixing Media; and what we’ll pay for

  1. Oh boy, I join you in your cable wish list. We never watch about 90% of the channels we get – who has time?? They should package the channels in smaller lots, like the sports package I have to pay for just to get HRTV, only with channels I actually want!!

  2. All good ideas to think about-I was one of the small donors to Kentucky Confidential-but it made me think-if not for the one big donor, was the average small guy really willing to pay for it, or do we just expect everything for free in this age of free web access to most stuff. Technology is changing everything-I dropped my $100 point and shoot 3 month old camera and bought the same exact one yesterday for $69 dollars. A 30% drop in 3 months.

  3. The paywalls are really annoying, but I see why they are needed in some cases.

    At the time Equibase did theirs and mandated all charts go to PDF, it was done as I recall in order to prevent offshore outlets from illegally putting together past performances that they were able to generate off the charts too easily.

    From the previous topic:

    Aqueduct was certainly known as “The Dream Track,” and I remember those pencils that continued to have that on them up until around 1983 or so.

    As for Belmont, as I was not born until 1965 I was too young to remember Belmont undergoing the complete rebuild it did from 1963-’68. From what I remember reading, the grandstand was on the verge of collapse, which would be amazing when you consider the work that had just gone on at Belmont a few years earlier.

    On another front, I don’t like the idea of going to Belmont in March. Not everyone may like Aqueduct, but it has served two purposes: the track that runs in cold weather and allowing for the super long turf seasons we have in New York, usually the first and last track to be running on the turf in the north (other than Keeneland when they start early) each year. The changes I would make with Aqueduct are the ones I noted earlier:

    Move the inner track surface to the main track so that races at seven furlongs and one mile around one turn can be run in the winter.

    Restore the inner track to the one mile turf course it used to be.

    Convert the existing turf course into a seven-eighths of a mile harness track that would be wide enough to allow 12 starters across. The latter would be key to this, especially since that would in turn allow for both thoroughbred and harness racing to be conducted at Aqueduct, especially in the fall when it can become a premiere harness meet.

  4. Speaking of media, the Kentucky Derby draw for post positions will be televised on Wednesday, May 4th from 5 – 6 P.M. on VERSUS.

    There will be a PBS Special on Thursday night, May 5th, with a good deal of the filming/interviewing done at Aqueduct.

    The Kentucky Oaks will be televised on Friday, May 6th, from 5 – 6 P.M. on VERSUS.

    The Kentucky Derby will be televised on Saturday, May 7th, from 11 A.M. – 4 P.M. on VERSUS, and from 4 – 7 P.M. on NBC.

  5. Increasingly hard to engage in true equine discourse on the sites. It is actually becoming comical-if you have the time.
    Hey TG, Ramsey has been hot lately with his kitten horses-hope you had a few ducats on them.

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