What exactly is the Tribune asking us to pay for?

November 8, 2012

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When the Chicago Tribune's paywall went up last week, Bill Adee, Vice President for digital development and operations said there was a great deal of Trib content "worth paying for," like "Chris Jones on theater, David Hall on sports, [and] Pulitzer Prize winner Mary Schmich."

But writer Coya Paz says that, "With the exception of theatre reviews, I never read the Tribune when it was free, so it’s hard to imagine I’d pay for access now." Read an excerpt of her thoughts below or listen above: 

When I was a teenager, living in a depressing strip mall suburb, I spent a lot of time imagining what my life would be like when I grew up. I would live in glamorous metropolis, in a giant loft apartment with no furniture except for a giant mattress in the middle of the floor. After wild nights out with my fabulous but tortured artist friends, I would wake up in bed with my impossibly hot lover and we would lie around for hours, drinking coffee, eating croissants and reading the newspaper. This seemed the height of sophisticated adult living: coffee and newspapers.

Now that I am an actual adult, I live in Humboldt Park, in a tiny, two-bedroom apartment cluttered with Ikea furniture and my three-year-old's plastic toys. I have no wild nights out with fabulous friends, though I do stay up late reading tortured Facebook statuses. In the morning, I eat a sensible, low-fat, high-protein breakfast and drink my coffee in the bathroom while I simultaneously try to put on mascara and brush my child’s teeth. Every now and then my partner whizzes by, waves her iPad in front of my face and asks, "Did you see this?” pointing to some item of interest she found on Buzzfeed or Pulse.

I get the rest of my news on the radio or from Twitter, scanning 140 character headlines and clicking through to the full article when I have a minute. Despite all this, I feel pretty well informed. Glamour Magazine sends me a weekly email letting me know which nail polishes work best with current trends. Gozamos sends me a daily email letting me know about Latino-oriented arts and culture events happening near my ‘hood. Poets.org sends me two poems a day, the New York Times sends me book and movie reviews and President Obama sends me hourly updates on how much money Mitt Romney has raised.

So when I heard the news that, as of October 31st, the Chicago Tribune will be charging $14.99 to access its online site, I was very surprised. Was there really a market for this? Like really, really, really, really? The New York Times is one thing, but the Tribune? Are people that loyal to their particular brand of commentary that they’ll pay $14.99 a month for it?

It seems… steep. I mean, I’m not opposed to paying for things I value, even when I could get them for free. I give money to WBEZ and I never even ask for the thank you gift, mostly because I think the last thing I want to be is one of those people who are carrying a public radio tote bag, like, "Look at me, I’m a liberal!" I pay for MP3s instead of just having my DJ friends send me songs through Dropbox. And whenever a tip jar goes around, I’ll throw a few bucks in, you know, just to be decent.

I’m not opposed to subscribing to things either. I subscribe to dozens of magazines; Lucky Magazine, Real Simple, Fast Company, New York Magazine, US Weekly, American Theatre Magazine and Natural Living. I love holding a magazine in my hand, turning the pages, flipping back to a previous article to doublecheck something  lip gloss color, I don't know. Even when I don’t have time to read magazines, I like having them around because it holds the promise of having time to read all those magazines. And best of all, I like passing them on to other people when I’m done, getting a dog eared glossy in exchange.

Online access just isn’t the same. . . .

The Paper Machete is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It's always at 3 p.m., it's always on Saturday, and it's always free. Get all your The Paper Machete Radio Magazine needs filled here, or download the podcast from iTunes here.