Discussing the departure of Times blogger BabyBarista the other day, I cited the example of one of the paper’s more successful bloggers, Charles Bremner in Paris. Bremner has just written this very careful post reminding his followers that very soon they will have to pay to follow him.
If you want to get a sense of how a paywall actually affect the commentators who may well determine the experiment’s result, this piece is worth a dozen items of abstract argument on the issue. Bremner must of course follow his paper’s policy, but I don’t think it’s fanciful to detect some anxiety in his tone. He’s bidding farewell for sure to some of his readers; he just doesn’t know how many.
Look at the comments and you will see an exchange about whether a micropayments system which would allow readers to opt to pay for some writers and not for others might be better than a one-size-fits-all paywall. Not surprisingly, Bremner – whose blog would likely flourish with micropayments – is in favour. I’m not sure that the system might not just be too complicated for anyone to bother with it; but let’s hope that someone tries it out soon. For the moment, the mixed comments on Bremner’s post are some of the first evidence we have on how people actually react to a paywall going up between them and regular reading they’ve been doing for free.