Here at the Times, we’ve just launched an internal system for sharing ideas and I posted this there. But I figured others might also be interested to hear my case for why the NYTimes.com should offer free online access to schools and libraries. I, of course, have no real influence over this decision.
I hope this is in the pipeline already or being considered but I think we should whitelist the IP addresses of these public institutions.
When the paywall was launched there was a lot of hue and cry over how we were restricting the public value of our journalism by putting it behind a paywall. There are a lot of people for whom $15 a month is more than they can afford and if we cut them off we become more of a tool purely of and for the elite. Public libraries are important institutions that provide access to information to large swaths of society which are underserved. They often have free copies of the printed New York Times. They should have free NYTimes.com too.
Kids in school are unlikely to have any influence on the decision to subscribe to the Times or not and they should have the opportunity to read. Lifelong habits can develop early. I know that when I was a kid and had no control of money what I read and what software I used was purely dictated by what I could get for free. By not letting kids read for free, we risk alienating an entire generation of new readers.
Neither of these groups of readers are likely to overlap much with the set of people likely to purchase a digital subscription. And it’s unlikely that people who would otherwise purchase a subscription will start trekking to a school or library every time they want to read.
Site licenses and group subscriptions might be a good solution for universities or workplaces, but for primary and secondary schools and public libraries it’s likely to be beyond their budget or beyond the mind of whoever is in charge of purchasing.