We started debating the question here and here. Readers chime in:

I've long wondered why I can't go to the New York Times website and pay a small amount for a digital edition of that day's paper that would be mine forever. In other words, why can't newspapers and magazines work online like they used to (and still do, to some extent) at the newsstand? Apparently NYT does this on Kindle already, for 99 cents. Why not for every platform? I want my 99 cent NYT pdf! I want an iTunes store for news! Who's with me?


Why not a system in which each URL contains a pay code so that when you open the page you are charged a very small fee to read the article?

I'm thinking a fraction of a penny that would come out of an online coin purse that would never contain more than say $20 so that even if you're hacked, you wouldn't lose much. My transit pass deducts money from my account, why can't someone devise a simple online, automatic pay system?

If I paid between a tenth of a cent and a half a cent per article or post, I'd be paying about what I used to pay per day for a printed newspaper. The writer or company they work for would get this fee for the work, regardless of where the story appears. It would support independent journalism and avoid the situation we face now over an expensive paywall for, say, the New York Times. I love the Times, but it's not my local paper and I have zero interest in paying the sums they're asking just to read a Times article every few days.

Another also likes the idea of micropayments:

But what would be the billing mechanism for such small sums?

I think of how I pay to cross toll bridges here in the San Francisco area.  I buy an EZ Pass for $30 with a credit card account. Every time I cross a bridge, the toll is deducted from my EZ Pass balance, and when the balance gets low, my EZ Pass account is automatically topped up from my credit card.

I visit many websites in search of information.  I wouldn't want to be setting up multiple "EZ News" accounts, particularly when the incremental deductions from each account would be so small.  I am thinking that news and opinion websites could form a payment consortium: I could buy website clicks ahead of time from the group operation, and for each click I made on a website, the owner of the site would be credited with the click fee, and it would be deducted from my balance.  As my balance got close to zero, my balance could be topped up from my credit card.  That way, I'd be paying only for what I wanted to read, it wouldn't be a burdensome expense, and the news organizations would be getting an income.  Perhaps not as much per reader as they would through a paywall, but with more readers, the micro payments could add up to approximate the paywall income.  Just a thought …

More thoughts from a micropayment fan:

I think what David Carr missed about the advocates of a free and open Internet is that the argument isn't about payment as a whole, but how certain methods of payment run counter to how the Internet is used.  Put simply, people still surf.  They sample from different sources because those sources have different parts that fit into variety of bubbles.

The thing that I most like about services like Crunchyroll and Netflix is how much content gets provided for me at a low price.  Sure, there's a lot missing, and much of the available material isn't that good, but the same can be said for newspapers.  Thus, when I think about paying for a newspaper, the decision is going to be made based on how much quality product vs. total shit, in my opinion, I'm going to be getting. 

Having a service that offers access to a lot papers at an affordable price is much more enticing and better fits actual surfing habits, especially after the guttings of the cost-cutting periods.  This could be accomplished by paying a wholesaler or using a microtransaction model that uses a Paypal-like service as the payment method and works like EZ-Pass for the PA Turnpike that can be used on highways in other states.

We'll see, but I don't see paywalls becoming the long-term solution to this issue.