The Great Newspaper Firewall Is Coming. And?S

Newsday is going to start charging for its awful website. One columnist there quit over it. The New York Times says it will make a decision on charging for its (good) website "within weeks." Then what happens?

NYT editor Bill Keller told Clark Hoyt that the paper is "within weeks of a decision" on the long-discussed question of whether, and how, to charge for its online news.

So here is what their decision will be: You will have to pay for their online news. One way or another! Maybe you will pay a $5 per month subscription fee, or maybe you will pay micropayments for every story, or maybe they will roll out tiered membership packages with fancy extras designed to get hardcore fans to pay more in exchange for more access. Probably a certain level of news will be free, and a better level of news will not be free. Or maybe someone there has actually come up with an elegant solution to this mess! Though we doubt it.

But somehow we will all have to pay something, because if we don't, the New York Times is totally going to go broke, bit by bit, by giving its product away for free. Which is something that it and every other newspaper have now come to realize. A more interesting question: Will any of the NYT's star columnists flee the paper if they're shoved behind a pay wall, like Newsday's Saul Friedman just did?

They might! These same NYT columnists sat through the Times Select fiasco and watched their readership drop precipitously. Things are different now though! Because somebody like, say, Thomas Friedman, or David Pogue, or Maureen Dowd, could legitimately decide that their own BRAND would gain more by going off on their own than by sitting behind a paywall at the NYT. Thanks for the help with everything, Times, but we're off to be A Brand Called Me-s! Fewer readers could hurt their speaking fees. Can't have that.

This result would bring in some much-needed fresh blood and get rid of Thomas Fucking Friedman, so let's all pray it goes down exactly like that. We have our (employer's) credit card ready, Bill Keller.