Kevin Hamilton

The ethics of dodging the NYT paywall. Google adds a social layer to search.

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So what have people been talking about this week in the digital world? More of the same, but with a few new twists.

We reported last week that the New York Times paywall was full of holes. The Nieman Journalism Lab put up a great discussion yesterday about the moral concerns of jumping the paywall, touching on many questions that have plagued ethicists since the advent of the Internet. For example, it’s generally wrong to take things that you’ve been asked to pay for, even if the price is outrageous or if it’s free elsewhere. Does this apply online? Is reading an online article for free the same thing as stealing a steak?

These are pertinent questions, of course. A Canadian survey was just released that finally put a number to the fact that no one wants to pay for news. Only four percent of respondents said they would pay to continue reading their favourite news site.

Two weeks ago we covered Google’s most recent change to their search algorithm, designed to help weed out content farms and poor quality sites. Now they’re at it again, adding a new “+1” functionality similar to the Facebook “Like” button. If you found a website helpful, clicking “+1” next to the search result will go a little ways towards bumping up their ranking for other people, particularly those in your Google network. The change is being rolled out slowly, but you can opt in right now if you like. Just like the algorithm change, thisstands to favour creators of original and quality content – hopefully most journalists fall in that category.


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