There is a new trend among websites where they want my email address before I can read their free content. While I sympathize with the struggles of the media industry, I would like to point out something very clear: not reading is easier than reading – and much easier then login.
I do not mind The Atlantic Ocean requires an email – it’s stopped me from hating reading the amazing churn of bad recordings they publish – but just about everyone should do away with this. you hear me Reuters? It annoys me Reutersmainly because it is a news service and I can find the articles most of the time without login by the Reuters website. As for you, The New York Times, I don’t want to read your stories in your app! No thanks!
Let’s keep naming names. Hey Google? I don’t want to log in to search. If I wanted to log in, I would. All the popups in the world won’t make me log in. You know how you keep asking me on my phone when I open a link in my email, if I want to open it in Chrome? I don’t, and I can say no forever. All you do is make me resent you.
The more each site tries to create its own little walled garden, the less valuable the open web becomes
And confidentially to Substack: If I’ve clicked on a newsletter on the web, blocking my view of the thing I’m trying to read with a subscription pop-up won’t make me more inclined to subscribe. It just means I’m probably not going to read the newsletter.
One of the biggest problems with salesbros is that they think “always close” is a mantra to live by because they didn’t understand the point of GlengarryGlen Ross, that is salespeople are nightmares. That’s why there’s always some silly pop-up chat at the bottom of every website now. No, Pamela — if that’s your real name — I don’t want live assistance when booking my yoga class. You take up valuable screen real estate.
This is a real tragedy of the commons shit. The web becomes a miserable experience because some sales bro trying to hit its KPIs does things to marginally increase the number of paying customers. (And you know, damn it with the rest of us!) The more each site tries to create its own little walled garden, the less valuable the open web becomes.
I suspect this has become more common lately due to privacy concerns. See, a change in EU privacy law means it’s not that easy to track users across the web; Apple’s privacy initiatives on its phone similarly make this more difficult. In the case of publishers, I assume the company is trying to create a richer ad profile for me to better compete with Facebook and Google. And you know, maybe they can sell my email as part of a targeted marketing list. So what we’re looking at here is creating a poorer user experience to pursue a variety of dishonest ways to make money.
There are no real public areas on the internet
And that sucks because there are no real public spaces on the internet. Here, in reality, I can go to a park and hug a tree and sit on a bench and do things without ads, without anyone trying to follow me, and without having to pay a dime. There was a time in my memory when people tried to make websites feel like they were semi-public – you could hang out on someone’s cool blog and enjoy yourself. Sure, there could be a banner ad, but that’s like paying a dollar for coffee and then sitting in a restaurant all day with free refills.
The semi-permeable paywall? I understand that. Shit, if I read more than 10 of your articles a month, probably should subscribe. Fair’s fair, and writers have to eat like everyone else. But I’m starting to feel like I’m being stripped for data, and for what? Google already has access to my email. Why the hell does it need more of my information? How much more of my life does this behemoth want to watch?
Don’t know. I was on the internet in the 1990s and I remember people just making things for fun – as gifts for other people. It seems like there’s less and less of that ghost left, which is why the internet is worthless now. That’s why I have to add “reddit” to my Google searches to avoid getting SEO glut – the for-profit stuff drowns out everything else. That’s why people use DALL-E for newsletter header images to make sure their newsletter gets a bigger map in a social media feed — because it doesn’t matter what image resembling as long as it is consists. That’s why people deliberately post mistakes in their TikToks to increase engagement – because all the people who comment to tell you you’re wrong are giving you a boost in the algorithm. This is the bad place!
I’d like to believe we’re better than this, that it’s still possible to make weird, beautiful things online and find an audience without doing the dirty marketing grotesquery. But realistically, it’s only a matter of time before I beat someone to death with a copy of from Lewis Hyde The gift because they let slip into casual conversation that they made all their money making the internet worse. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some grass to touch.