Why I'll Pay For the New York Times Online

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When the time comes, I'll dutifully pay for access to The New York Times website. I am neither offended by the paper's new online pricing plan nor daunted by the reminder that nothing built by man, like free web content, lasts forever or stays free.

At $15 per month, access to nytimes.com is roughly the price of one lunch for my son and I at Chipotle. It is less than I am willing to pay each month for my Fresca and my Diet Pepsi and my coffee, all of which I should drink less of anyway. It is less than the price of two movie tickets or what I spend on crappy wrapping paper each year, courtesy of school fundraising drives. And it is far less than I paid when (for years) I subscribed to the Times' national print edition, which was dutifully dropped at my door each morning.

I will pay this price because I understand how expensive it is to produce the type of product the Times produces each day. I will pay it also because it's an incredible bargain. Spending roughly 50 cents per day (half of the cost of the cheapest hamburger at McDonald's) for access to every story the Times puts up reminds me of the miracle of mail service, which charges me just 44 cents to send a letter from Maine to San Diego or from Seattle to Miami. Yes, I know the Post Office sucks. But it's still a pricing miracle. And the Times' model is no less so today because I've haven't been asked to pay that price until now.

I will sign up for service because I've been living free and easy off the largesse of the online Times for years. It has filled hour upon hour of my life with information and entertainment. I realize that, in return, I have given the Times higher click counts, which have been churned into advertising revenue. But I don't mind doing a little more. Nor will I mind in the future if other media outlets upon which I daily rely seek to charge me a fair rate for access to their work. Perhaps one day they'll bundle their services like cable companies do. Perhaps not. I don't know. In a few years, I'll probably read about it in the Times.

Finally, I do not mind the fact that others apparently have already figured out ways in which to get the Times online product for free once the price-wall comes up. Who am I to judge their consciences? Besides, there will always be a market-- and by that I mean a paying market-- for quality work.I know this may be an old-fashioned way to look at the Internet's irresistible flow of information. I know there are well-intentioned tribunes out there, including many of my colleagues in the media, who turn these financial choices by media companies into metaphysical questions of liberty and freedom.

Last time I checked, there is no constitutional right to free online access to quality journalistic content. And even the Sulzbergers are entitled to make a buck. Where do I sign up?

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Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic, 60 Minutes' first-ever legal analyst, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. He is also chief analyst for CBS Radio News and has won a Murrow Award as one of the nation's leading legal journalists. More

Cohen is the winner of the American Bar Association’s 2012 Silver Gavel Award for his Atlantic commentary about the death penalty in America and the winner of the Humane Society’s 2012 Genesis Award for his coverage of the plight of America’s wild horses. A racehorse owner and breeder, Cohen also is a two-time winner of both the John Hervey and O’Brien Awards for distinguished commentary about horse racing.

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