The past month or so I considered buying a online subscription to the New York Times, and the wealth of information it provides. But I postponed doing so, if I were being honest, because I balked at paying for information, much of which, I could have received elsewhere at no cost.
Today I pulled the trigger. The reason? I saw a promotion across the top of the front page that said, 4 Weeks for 99 cents. Yes, 99 cents for a month’s worth of content from this country’s preeminent news source – unless you consider sites like TMZ or Perez Hilton news sources. The price rises to $3.75 per week, or $15 per month, once the first month ends. Overall, a bargain in my book.
Purchasing a New York Times subscription or a subscription to the New Yorker or any number of magazines I read online for free has been something I’ve been thinking about as part of a larger question. That question is, what responsibility do I have as a consumer to support news organizations or entertainers whose information/art plays a large role in forming my worldview?
This is a complicated question because I do not have infinite resources, and even if I could buy every newspaper or magazine I’ve ever read online for free or every album or movie I’ve illegally downloaded, my contribution would be like a drop in the bucket. Perhaps, I admit, the second part of the sentence is an excuse. There’s still validity to it when considering my responsibility as a consumer.
The issue, as I have weighed it, goes beyond piracy and its moral implications. Morally, I am against stealing. In practice, I am a hypocrite. I steal albums, though I do pay for those I deem worth supporting even if I have already downloaded them illegally. I also steal TV shows to watch on my computer. A few years back, I even received letters from my cable provider via HBO to stop stealing one of its shows. The show in question? True Blood, I’m ashamed to admit.
Theoretically, if True Blood were to cease to exist because I illegally downloaded it and HBO could no longer afford to produce it, would I feel like I lost something great? No. (I realize that’s unfair to the people whose livelihoods depend on the show.) What if the same question were asked about a show I enjoyed like Game of Thrones, for instance?
That’s part of the aforementioned “bigger” question I am chewing on. Does my enjoyment of Games of Thrones mean I will purchase HBO before Season 3 starts? Unlikely. I don’t have cable. Hell, I don’t even own a TV. (God, what a Portland thing to write.) But … Should I support the show financially, not because I am watching it, but because I am enjoying it and want it to continue airing?
Or, should I, as a consumer, stop watching shows because I do not own a TV or can’t afford to purchase every single episode of every show I enjoy when they become available on iTunes? Should my focus on TV shows or music or anything else be more narrowed? Is the issue that we have too many choices, and thus the offerings before us should naturally be thinned out in our capitalistic society?
I know. A lot of questions. Maybe, in time, I will come up with answers. For now, I will enjoy the New York Times in digital format.