Newspaper columnist quits over paywall

Saul Friedman, a long-standing Newsday columnist, has quit the paper over its decision to implement a paywall, pointing out that by charging $5/week for readers, they'll drastically cut his audience size (and, presumably, the present and future opportunities that having a large audience afford to a working writer). I doubt he'll be the last. Last month at the O'Reilly Tools of Change conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair, someone asked a representative from The Guardian newspaper (for whom I write a column) if they would consider charging for access to the site, and I pointed out that I would no longer offer The Guardian such a hefty discount off my normal word-rate if this were the case. It's worth it to me to write for lower fees in exchange for the broader reach, but if you eliminate that reach, the benefit to me as a writer starts to dry up.

I wonder if newspaper strategists grasp that they get a lot of work on the cheap in exchange for the reach they provide to their writers, and that intentionally limiting that reach will raise their costs. I also wonder at newspaper strategists who, having decided that they can't monetize fame, have opted to monetize obscurity instead, seemingly in the belief that this will somehow be easier.

That did not sit well with Mr. Friedman, a freelancer who wrote Gray Matters, a weekly column on aging. He explained his departure in a note to Jim Romenesko's media blog. In an interview, Mr. Friedman said, "My column has been popular around the country, but now it was really going to be impossible for people outside Long Island to read it." That includes him; living outside Washington, he is not a subscriber to Newsday or Cablevision.

Mr. Friedman, who is 80, said he would continue to write about older people for the site, but he called his decision an end to more than 50 years in newspapers. He wrote for Newsday for more than 20 years, including several years as a staff writer in its Washington bureau.

Columnist Quits After Newsday Starts Charging for Its Web Site

(via /.)