Jul 10

Paying for The Times: my very own obstacle course

An American friend of mine, standing once at the entrance to a restaurant which seemed to have no interest in seating him, said: “This is the only thing I don’t like about this country. Here I am, trying to give people my money. Do they want it? No.”

I found myself in a similar position today trying to pay an online subscription to The Times and Sunday Times. I’m fond of The Times (disclosure: I worked there for many years) and while I have doubts about the particular paywall scheme they’ve begun, experiments in charging are good. If this kind of thing isn’t tried, we won’t know. And we don’t know if other business models will keep good journalism going.

A few weeks ago, I was infuriated by the new site’s habit of dropping down a registration window and making you enter your details again. And again. And again. Eventually I left the site alone for a bit and the snag was fixed – but apparently not before this problem had irritated many others, including people working on the paper.

Yesterday, having missed his live appearances in London this week, I wanted to see the Q&A with author Clay Shirky. It wouldn’t load for ages and I had to go and do something else. OK I thought, maybe the site was getting heavy traffic yesterday as people used it for free on the last day before payment. I thought I’d better have a look at the Shirky interview because I’m reviewing his book. For The Times.

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