Chris Morris and the Pay-as-you-go Internet

As a somewhat obsessive Chris Morris fanboy, I was interested to read (or rather, read *of*) an article in The Independent announcing that his latest work is to be a sitcom, scheduled for screening on Channel 4 in January. It turns out there’s a lot of misinformation in that article, but several issues are clarified on Cookd and Bombd. And that was to be the extent of this entry – just a little public service announcement for any Morris fans who happened to drop in. However, another issue arose when I tried to find the Independent article in order to link to it…

As with the Times a couple of years ago, all archived Independent articles are now only available by subscription. The subscription prices range from £60 for a year’s access to all content to a “pay as you go” system allowing you 24 hours of access to a single item for £1. Hmm.

Incidentally, the same article appeared in the Belfast Telegraph (also part of the Independent News and Media corporation) who also operate a subscription policy at the more reasonable rates of 50p for a single article and £50 for full access. Fortunately, I was able to read the whole article for free on the People’s Republic of Cork website.

Back to the Independent, though, I find it disturbing that they’ve moved to a subscription system. Obviously a high-quality, comprehensive website is not cheap to run, and the facility to read an entire daily newspaper online must be having an effect on sales. It’s just… I dunno, maybe I’m being a naive idealist here. A paid subscription service is something I’d expect from the Murdoch-run Times, but not the Independent. There’s also the fact that these are privately owned, profit-making products with editorial partiality. Who do they think they are? The Library of Congress?

The Guardian/Observer have a nice solution… the (expensive) digital edition allows you to view the same layout as the printed edition, but in your browser. Then there’s a number of cheaper subscription alternatives including an ad-free version of the Guardian Unlimited site, a comprehensive crossword service and email/SMS alerts. But at the heart of it all, access to current and archived content from both the Guardian and Observer via the standard Guardian Unlimited site is free. This is not an advert. I just like the Guardian and find I’m liking their rivals less and less these days…

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