All the news that’s fit to print

I notice that the Japan Times has recently gone partially behind a paywall.

I still get the free daily emails, and can connect to the site (which has a nice tablet version too) for free. And it seems you can read a certain number of articles before you are prompted to login.

The basic account, which requires a login, is also free, and it apparently gives you an extra 15 articles to read per month. But after that it has become paid, like the New York Times site.

It’s a bit pricey too:

If you want to move from 15 articles per month to 80 articles, it is 900 yen/month.

Unlimited digital only access is 3,000 yen/month. That is more expensive than a print subscription to the Daily Yomiuri which is 2,600 yen/month.

Then comes their full subscription, which is 5,000 yen/month and includes home delivery, unlimited digital access and also, interestingly enough, unlimited digital access on all devices to the International New York Times, with whom they have partnered. This is reduced to 4,480 yen/month with a full year subscription.

That might be a bargain for people who already subscribe to the New York Times digital for all devices, which averages out to about 3,800 yen/month. In other words, if you are already subscribing to the full New York Times digital on all your devices you can add home delivery and full digital access to the Japan Times for just an extra 680 yen/month (if you get a year’s subscription). That’s not unappealing.

On the other hand, it’s about what I’m paying monthly for my fiber optic Internet line and provider service.

I can understand why they are trying. Print subscribers are decreasing in numbers all over the world.

I used to be a faithful newspaper subscriber. For years I subscribed to the Japan Times. After about 20 years I got tired of their editorial policy – in particular their paid “country days” which basically was a section devoted to an entire country (even places like Iran) with lots of congratulatory articles and paid ads from companies trying to get into that country’s good graces. It seemed like “paid news” to me and so I switched to the Daily Yomiuri. The Daily Yomiuri was considerably less expensive and, I think, a better newspaper with their weekly rotating sections from other newspapers around the world, like the LA Times and Times of London.

Yet I had a major change of heart about print newspapers after the 3/11/2011 great earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. I got one one-page special edition the day of the quake. But thereafter, all the news I was getting was basically one day old. Which of course is generally the problem with print newspapers and up-to-date news. At that time, getting current news seemed critical and it annoyed me that I would read something online and then get it in print a day later.

So, after some long, hard thinking, I gave up my print subscription to the Daily Yomiuri back in 2011. I thought I would miss it, and go through withdrawal, but surprisingly did not. By that time, I had gotten used to reading news online – on my computer, and on my iPhone and iPad. There seemed to be plenty of online, free choices. And I especially got to like the news aggregator apps like Zite and Flipboard which bring in free news from all sorts of publications. There is even quite a nice Japan Times mobile site, as I mentioned above. I just started noticing that I was running into their paywall limit recently.

I know it doesn’t make sense really. I used to think it was worth it to pay for magazines, and for newspaper subscriptions. Yet somehow I get the feeling (unfair probably) that “news ought to be free” and “they should somehow pay for everything with advertising” and “it should be a lot cheaper if they aren’t printing on paper and doing home delivery.”

But it seems that quality sites, like the New York Times, which is an enormously expensive operation, have not found a way to make it work with just advertising. Thus their paywalls.

One problem with the New York Times paywall is that it is trivially easy to bypass. You see, they allow links from other sites to come in for free. That way other sites can refer to them, which is presumably good publicity. So all you have to do to read any New York Times article for free is (1) copy the link; (2) go to another site like; (3) paste the link into the browser and there you are. To the New York Times it looks like you are being referred by and you get in.

I’m sure it’s not the same as true complete full browsing access on all devices, but it gets the job done, and, to be honest (or to be dishonest, depending on how you look at it) it has been one factor in me hesitating about buying a subscription. Why pay for something that is so easy to see for free?

I think there will come a time when I’ll probably cave and subscribe again. I do think there has to be a better price level though, considering the state of technology. For example, I definitely don’t need a printed paper (except for my bird cages). So I feel it would be a waste to subscribe to the full-blown Japan Times print + digital + New York Times offer. It would be nice if they had a step down from that which was all digital, but without the home delivery. And it does seem you should be able to save some amount if you are not receiving a printed paper with the labor of home delivery.

For now, I’m still sticking with free news sources, because they are so widespread and available. But if quality, reliable news becomes unavailable, I may give in at some point, if the price seems right.

I do like the New York Times and all the in-depth coverage of everything. I don’t like the high cost, and mountains of paper piling up in my genkan.

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