Dear L.A. Times: Take Down Your Paywall

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We adore you and support you, but our current public health disaster demands free and full access to information.

We love you.


Not like, “Love ya, miss ya” and air kisses.

But like love, like, OMG l-o-v-e.

Of all the El Segundo-based papers, you’re our favorite.

We love you so much that we link to your stories many times a week, we subscribe to the print edition and we share your YouTube videos widely on social media. Especially the recent one by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong about the science behind this virus.

And it’s because we love you, that it’s important to tell you when you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Your paywall has to go (for now).

Nobody needs to see this right now.

At your old building in downtown L.A., you used to have a hallway lined with groundbreaking frontpages featuring the first man on the moon, the end of wars, earthquakes, assassinations and other historic events.

This is is one of those historic events.

We know you know that because lately, nearly every single article in your paper is about it. No matter the section, no matter the writer, this deadly, mysterious virus has seeped-in and freaked out anyone paying attention.

The homepage of the Los Angeles Times food section, Wednesday morning, March 25, 2020.

Us subscribers are paying attention, and we are genuinely grateful for your tireless work.

As you have duly reported, we are in a public health crisis. All Angelenos deserve to read what you have to say about this. In our current situation, access to up-to-the-minute information you provide can actually save lives.

It is excellent that you are currently offering an introductory subscription rate of $1 for 8 weeks. It’s a true bargain. And, hopefully, a lot of people have taken advantage of that.

But here in 2020, people know that introductory rates balloon into full retail pricing of $16 a month, and even though many of us are sitting at home not doing much, who wants to remind themselves to cancel things in two months?

Also, this thing isn’t going to be over in two months. Not according to the mayor, the feds or your impressive stats page.

And worse, those Angelenos who have started to lose their jobs shouldn’t have one more Netflix-sized bill to fret about in the near future.

Is your news worth the price you are offering? Yes. And then some. But during our current crisis, it is not the time to play these games.

The homepage of the Los Angeles Times sports section, Wednesday morning, March 25, 2020. All but one of the stories is about how COVID-19 is affecting sports.

Congress is not debating giving people $10K, they were haggling over $600-$1,200. How far would that get someone in L.A., a city which has quickly become one of the most expensive places to live in the world?

Meanwhile, who is asking for money to read his news? The richest man in L.A. Not just a billionaire, but a billionaire six times over.

Should billionaires be able to ask people to pay for his products? Of course.

Steve Ballmer isn’t offering Clippers tickets for free. Elon Musk isn’t handing out free Teslas.

Eli Broad isn’t letting people into his art museum for nothing.

Scratch that. But you get the point. And so do we.

The homepage of the Los Angeles Times entertainment section, Wednesday morning, March 25, 2020. Most of the stories here, too, are about the coronavirus and how it is affecting the entertainment business.

The journalists who crank out spectacular work at the L.A. Times deserve good salaries and it shouldn’t come directly from the ATM of the man who thankfully bought the paper a few years ago.

But right now asking the terrified, hunkered down, soon-to-be jobless reader for money feels awkward — especially while there are other outlets who are giving it away for free while seemingly being able to stay afloat.

We want the best for the L.A. Times, and we want your authority to remain intact by having the widest reach possible like so many of your competitors.

Far be it for an organization with exactly zero billionaires to give advice to the mightiest newspaper east of Manhattan, but there are more ways to offset the costs of running a newspaper than a paywall.

Since everyone knows that you have this wall, if and when you take it down, it will be like a giant clearance sale at your favorite store. Trade-off subscribers by having a sponsor pay for that day’s free reading. Hit up one of the banks, a utility, a cable company or a beverage company that sells all the water people are hoarding.

The homepage of the Los Angeles Times travel section, Wednesday morning, March 25, 2020. Every story is about the virus.

Surely there are large corporations who want to look like heroes, graciously helping readers have access to the Times‘ treasure trove of content.

“Today’s online edition is brought to you by Charmin. Who knew you loved us so much?”

Charge them whatever they are willing to spend and even if it’s not the amount you think it’s worth: take it.

The goodwill you will earn from tearing down your wall will pay off tremendously. Why? As cheesy as it sounds, what if someone reads an article and is inspired not to go outside and instead stays home and listens deeply to a record? Maybe that action stops them from infecting someone or touching a table that someone else touches 12 hours later. Wouldn’t you say it was worth only taking $20K from Walmart instead of playing hardball with Mr. and Mrs. North Hollywood?

The homepage of the Los Angeles Times homelessness/housing section, Wednesday morning, March 25, 2020. Every story is about the virus.

Take down the wall. Reap the benefits of digital ads. Collect email addresses from new readers to grow your newsletters’ reach. Encourage businesses, subscribers and generous souls to sponsor the content.

In return give donors something like a shoutout on the website. Or a picture in the paper. If there’s room for Plaschke’s face, there’s room for a lucky random do-gooder.

Speaking of your most polarizing writer, the piece he did about calling Vin Scully the other day was incredibly touching. People should not hesitate clicking on a link to that story with a fear that they will be shamed as they hit the paywall.

The stories you publish from food to travel to sports are just as valuable as the ones you provide for free.

What good is having a fortune and a staff of extraordinary journalists if you keep them just out of reach from the city?

This is a public health crisis.

There is a billionaire in Washington who will be remembered for all the wrong actions he took. Here’s your chance to be remembered for one beautiful action after another.

And if you want, add a tip jar to the bottom of each page. Who knows, you might end up making more from that than you think.

Los Angeleno

Los Angeleno