Why Publish Op-Eds Behind Paywalls?

Here’s something I’ve been wondering. Now that we have blogs and the internet, why do high ranking government officials – Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers today in the Washington Post, or Peter Orszag in the Financial Times for example – publish op-eds behind paywalls?

Why should people be forced to pay to hear read important policy discussions? Doesn’t that exclude a lot of people from participating in the discourse? Even if the policy discussions aren’t behind paywalls, other papers don’t reprint the remarks in full, at least hardly ever, so the distribution is still limited.

When, say, the president wants to say something, why publish it on the op-ed pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, etc.? Why not simply post it on the White House web site, and make it absolutely clear that anyone who wants to can republish it in its entirety. Instead of one paper publishing the remarks, wouldn’t they likely appear in several if not all major papers, or at least be discussed in some fashion, and wouldn’t the remarks also be reprinted in local papers and in many blogs? Wouldn’t a lot more people be able to read the discussion, and, in fact, wouldn’t it be likely that a lot more people would read it?

So why do they still use the old model? Is it because the general public isn’t the real target of these communications, or have I missed something essential?

I think that anybody who wants to read these remarks ought to be able to do so, so the remarks ought to be made available in a centralized, easy to find, free, convenient place. The White House web site, or government web sites more generally, seem to be a natural place to centralize communication now that technology has changed.

About Mark Thoma 243 Articles

Affiliation: University of Oregon

Mark Thoma is a member of the Economics Department at the University of Oregon. He joined the UO faculty in 1987 and served as head of the Economics Department for five years. His research examines the effects that changes in monetary policy have on inflation, output, unemployment, interest rates and other macroeconomic variables with a focus on asymmetries in the response of these variables to policy changes, and on changes in the relationship between policy and the economy over time. He has also conducted research in other areas such as the relationship between the political party in power, and macroeconomic outcomes and using macroeconomic tools to predict transportation flows. He received his doctorate from Washington State University.

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