I can understand why the Financial Times is transforming its FT.com to a largely subscription service. Its rival, The Wall Street Journal, has been conspicuously successful in charging for its site from the outset. The FT, in comparison, has muddled along online.
But the move is unfortunate for users. I think the FT is an important, different voice in world media. For most Web users, it will now be shut off, behind its subscription wall. In the overall context of the Internet, this is a microscopic deviation. But the more walls that are erected, the more retarded the promise of all information, available anywhere to everyone.
The principle is important, but the detail as well shouldn’t be ignored. A basic subscription will cost $110, a full subscription $300. By contrast, the superior WSJ site is $59 and only $29 if you are a subscriber to the print edition. Business users of the FT are largely price insensitive — they have to have it. There are a lot of us, however, who need to pay out of our own pockets. The announced rates are way too high.