Online news: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette shows how to make paywalls just plain tacky

Brick wallSo, here it is, Saturday morning, and I’m scanning the headlines through Google Reader while downing my second cup of java. There’s lots of news in which to be interested, of course. Most of it I can just click on and, voila, there it is. Now and again I’ll bump into a paywall. That’s okay (or maybe it isn’t?).  The publishers need to make a buck somehow, right?

But what about this?

Washington Can’t Be Fixed
from Arkansas Online stories by Richard L. Hasen in Slate

I’m game. Let’s see how Mr. Hasen makes the case. Oh, but what’s this? It’s an article preview! Even better, “This is a great article available only to our subscribers.

Oh, a paywall. Bummer. Next.

Hold on. Didn’t I just read that the article was by Richard L. Hasen in Slate? I did. I did, indeed.

I’m sure I could just go to Slate and search for it, but doing that for headlines is an iffy proposition at best. Changing the headline is all too often the only bit of editing an outlet does now. It’s hard to find a needle in a haystack when “Sharp Pointy Object Lurks in Hay.” Google to the rescue.

Wouldn’t you know it? It’s a Slate article entitled, “Why Washington Can’t Be Fixed.” Even better, the full text is available, and it’s right from the horse’s mouth.

As for you, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, I don’t know if you’re alone in this new strategy or not, but thus far, yours is the only online news source I’ve seen use this particularly ugly gimmick. Paywalls may or may not be the way to go. Using them to grant access to AP articles available from countless other sources may or may not make sense. But to lie to your readers with the statement that the article (published by another branded news outlet) is available only to your subscribers?

Forget tacky. It’s false advertising.

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Image credit: Brick wall by Mark Hillary, licensed under Creative Commons.

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