Opposition to paywalls is a “theology,” Rem Rieder said in moderating a one-sided love-session panel discussion about paywalls a couple months ago at the American Society of News Editors convention.
I considered at the time writing a response to the whole panel and especially to Rem’s notion that opposition is a theology (I come from a family of ministers; I know a theology when I see one). But I resisted the urge. I had other things to do, and I’ve written plenty on the topic.
The arguments before and against paywalls have been made extensively and passionately recently at the Columbia Journalism Review. Journalist-turned-entertainer David Simon made the argument for paywalls last month in a fairly short CJR piece and then his many responses in a long discussion in the comments, which I joined. I wouldn’t characterize anyone in this debate as theological, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to call Simon’s argument strongly faith-based.
Howard Owens responded a few times in the Simon comments, then wrote a separate piece for CJR, listing 10 reasons Simon is wrong. He cites facts, dollars, page views and history. It is the most detailed, reasoned, fact-based analysis of the paywall issue I have read, certainly more so than any I have written. I will not try to summarize it here. But if you care about paywalls and about the economic success of the news business, I urge you to read it.