Dear Dallas Morning News: I Love the Pay Wall. No, Really. Now May I Please Come In?
I'm all for pay walls. Pay walls r me. When newspapers like The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times put up pay walls, charging readers for access to news content, I figure they're trying to get ink-stained schlubs like me paid.
I know there are people out there who think we reporters should labor in the vineyards of truth for truth's sake and that charging for it makes us whores. But giving my work-product away for free just makes me feel like a dumb slut.
So charge! Charge away! I couldn't agree more.
The only thing, if you're going to have a pay wall, there needs to be a way to get through the pay wall. I tried for two weeks to figure out the secret code at The Dallas Morning News. I felt like a character in Lord of the Rings.
I'm a home subscriber. I'm supposed to be a member of the club already. But every time I tried to get in, the software came up with a new excuse for bouncing me out, like, "That email address is already in use."
Yeah. By me. Oh well. Never argue with software. Better to argue with cats. Finally I decided I needed to approach this thing the way I would if I were an ex-pat living in Italy needing to solve a problem with the Poste Italiane.
First, pack a lunch. Take a comfortable pillow. Plan on at least a full day.
So I set aside an afternoon and called their customer service number. A very nice man answered right away, no wait, and he understood right away what my problem was. He looked me up. I think I heard some muttering about what a lot of passwords I had under my name, but I ignored all remarks except direct questions, so as not to derail our pursuit of the ultimate goal.
I would say it was not 15 minutes before I was fixed up with a nice user name and password. For several days after that, I was able to zip right in there to the News' pages, see what I could see and zip back out.
Just to be polite, I always logged out instead of just x'ing the session. It's the way I was raised. My mother said, "Always log out, Jimmy."
So today I try to go back in. I hit the sign-in page just as I intend. I sign in. Zip-zip. Then it gives me a chance to join up, so I can sign in. But I'm already signed in, am I not? Not so much. I seem to be signed in ... but also out.
So I go back out. Come back in. Here I am. In. But then the software gives me a chance to get in. No, wait, don't tell me how to come in, you blockhead son of a bitch software. I'm already in.
Am I not? Not. Out.
Oh, man. I feel like I'm trying to buy a shirt from Abbott and Costello.
Do you want in? Of course I want in. You can't come in. You're already in. No, out. What do you want out for?
This is a very damned counterintuitive method of marketing. You know, you look at those old-fashioned things at the mall, what are they called? Stores. They spend all kind of money and time trying to get people to come in. Not out. In.
But maybe this is the next step. First, no wall. Then, pay wall. Next, just wall, as in mausoleum.
I'm all turned around.
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