The dirty little secret of the pay wall, that new model many newspaper websites are using in which readers get a limited number of free stories within a given time period, after which they’re told to subscribe (read: pay) for additional content, is becoming common knowledge: Deleting cookies blows a hole in the pay wall. That’s it. Walk right in. The content remains free.
Cookies are like digital finger prints websites embed in your computer that allow the sites to track what you’re clicking and reading. Delete the cookie and the website gets amnesia, forgetting you were ever there or who you are. Consequently, the meter tracking your clicks goes back to zero. “Welcome, new person,” the newspaper website says, “I will now begin counting your clicks.”
Gannett, parent company of The Daily Advertiser and four other Louisiana newspapers and the nation’s largest newspaper chain, adopted the pay wall model this month. But if you go to YouTube (or see the video embedded below) you can watch a video demonstrating how to delete Advertiser cookies from your computer browser, allowing for unlimited free content. That’s the theory anyway. Safari is the browser of choice in the video.
To further test this we went to The New York Times’ website, nytimes.com, on Firefox. NYT adopted the pay wall model months ago. Non-subscribers are given 10 free “clicks” per month. When the meter runs out, you have to pay for additional content. We surfed around the site until a notification popped up indicating that we had reached our 10-story limit. We deleted all cookies linked to “nytimes,” went back to the site and, sure enough, we had access again. After five clicks we were notified that we had read half of our free stories. The meter had started over.
This probably explains why The Times-Picayune is not adopting the pay wall model for its website as it moves to a digitally focused news future: pay walls don’t work, at least not if they rely on embedding cookies in your computer, and as this becomes common knowledge pay walls will become an ineffectual means for newspaper websites to generate revenue. Instead, they’ll have to generate revenue the old-fashioned way: By cultivating their online readership and then convincing advertisers that websites are a good investment.
Being in the newspaper business ourselves, we may be committing an industrial sin by disseminating this know-how. After all, we have a vital interest in the continuing health of our industry, which has been sickly and weak lo these many years. But we also have little doubt that newspapers will figure out some other technological means of enforcing the pay wall. For the time being, however, it appears that the pay wall is little more than a smoke screen.
[Editor’s Caveat: We’re not encouraging readers to circumvent newspaper pay walls. Papers own their content and charge for it if they damn well please. Moreover, we wonder whether readers who delete cookies to open the pay wall are running afoul of federal copyright laws. Just sayin’.]
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.