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To Paywall or not to Paywall?

Editor's Note: In response to the somewhat frantic emails I've been receiving today, let me reiterate (pre-iterate?) what it says in large text below: this is not something we're considering. I would not expect anyone to pay for the free blog you've come to know and love and tell your friends about. If you like what you read here on a daily basis, I'd love you to take our relationship to the magazine subscription level. But please stop worrying that we're about to send you a bill (and please stop emailing to tell me about those worries). I'll let David take it from here... --Jason

What if you came back to this blog tomorrow and suddenly found most of our content now hidden behind a paywall? How much would you be willing to fork over for your daily _floss fix?

Okay, take a breath.

Relax! Don't worry! We have no intention of doing any such thing.

I just raise the question because it's a hot topic right now in the social media world. Obviously, the idea behind blogs and social media is that it's meant to be consumed and shared. But paid content can't be shared, unless, of course, those receiving the link subscribe to the same paid content.

It's such a hot topic right now, that The Economist, which hides a lot of its print magazine content behind online paywalls, has declared 2010 "The year of the paywall," citing numerous newspapers and magazines that will try to adopt the Wall Street Journal's successful model of charging for a lot of its online content. The New York Times is considering such a switch, and, according to The Economist article, "Even the Guardian, a British newspaper that has long been an evangelist for free news online, has launched a paid-for iPhone application (though accessing stories is free once the app has been downloaded)."

We're all so used to major news sites like The New York Times being free, you can understand why it's such a hot topic. An Ipsos/PHD survey recently found that 55% of consumers "would be very or extremely unlikely to pay for online newspaper or magazine content."

According to this piece on PBS.org's Mediashift, "After New York's Newsday locked most of its content behind a paywall, its web traffic dropped by 21 percent. On top of that, longtime Newsday columnist, Saul Friedman, resigned over the decision to charge. One of the reasons he cited for his resignation was that a pay wall would prevent him from sending his column to people who don't subscribe to Newsday."

What about you all? Do you fall into the above quoted survey's 55% or the other 45%? Give us a reason or two to back your position. The debate starts now...

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3 Easy Ways to Curb Your Smartphone Addiction
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In the modern era, it feels virtually impossible to live without a smartphone. How would your friend tell you she's running late to meet you for lunch? How many life updates would you miss if you're off Instagram? How on earth do you find anything without Google Maps? Few of us are able to resist the siren call of cell phones and social media, and as a result, researchers say that smartphone addition is on the rise, causing greater levels of anxiety and depression, especially among young adults.

Even if you don't feel like your phone is making you depressed, you probably feel like you stare at it at least a little longer than you should each day. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 46 percent of smartphone owners say they couldn't live without their device. But there are ways to detach from your precious phone without having to totally disconnect. Here are three tips to help you back off your smartphone usage, no withdrawal pains necessary.

1. TURN OFF VIBRATIONS.

Let's face it: You probably look at your phone regularly, whether you know someone is trying to reach you or not. You know, just in case. A 2015 Gallup poll found that half of all smartphone owners look at their device hourly. Checking your smartphone is essentially a compulsion for many people, one that researchers say plays on the brain's dopamine circuitry to leave us always wanting more. To short-circuit that process, take away those intrusive notifications that derail your attention even when you're not looking at your phone. Trust us, you will rarely miss an important text message by waiting a few minutes to answer it, and you'll probably get rid of those pesky phantom vibrations in the process. Does it really matter if you find out now or in an hour that you have three likes on your latest Instagram post? We didn't think so.

2. DITCH THAT BATTERY PERCENTAGE NUMBER.

Checking your phone all the time doesn't just make you stress over whether or not someone is texting you back. The more time you spend on your smartphone, the quicker your battery dies, and the more time you spend stressing out over whether or not you'll have enough battery left to keep using your phone for the rest of the day. But knowing whether your phone is at 63 percent battery or 57 percent battery probably won't help. It's hard to judge exactly how long a phone will last even when you can see the percentage, and the constant downward tick of the numbers is only going to make you obsess more. So just disable the setting, hiding the battery percentage display altogether. You'll still be able to get a rough idea of how much charge your phone has left from the icon, there just won’t be a specific number attached to it. Because when it comes to actually using your smartphone, the difference between 54 percent and 53 percent battery is essentially meaningless, anyway. You might as well just ignore it.

3. MAKE IT GRAYSCALE.

This one is a recommendation from Tristan Harris, a former "Design Ethicist" at Google. He is a specialist on just how our phones hijack our attention, and how those random notifications keep us coming back to our home screens again and again and again. To break the pattern, he suggests making your phone’s shiny graphics look a little less interesting. Make them grayscale instead of color. Suddenly, your vibrant, colorful phone will look a little more drab. You'll be able to text and make phone calls and use Google Maps, sure, but scrolling through Facebook won't feel quite as rewarding.

This one seems a little extreme when you first try it, but it's pretty easy to switch back and forth between color and grayscale when you enable the setting. For an iPhone, go to the General tab in your settings, then Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters. When you turn on color filters, you should be able to select grayscale as an option, turning your phone drab. To switch back to color occasionally, go back to the Accessibility menu in your settings, then select Accessibility Shortcuts all the way at the bottom. Enable Color Filters in that menu, and you'll be able to switch back and forth just by triple-clicking the home button.

If you have an Android, the process is a little more complicated, and you may have to enable a developer mode to unlock it. (More instructions here.)

Once your phone is robbed of color, you'll be surprised at how much less powerful the rush of opening up your home screen is. It's like taking a sip of decaf coffee.

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Taking Facebook Quizzes Could Put You at Risk for Identity Theft
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From phishing schemes to a thief pilfering your passport, there are plenty of ways to fall victim to identity theft. And now, participating in Facebook quizzes is one of them. As ABC News reports, the seemingly harmless surveys that populate your feed could wind up providing unscrupulous hackers with the answers to your online security questions.

Popular Facebook quizzes often ask users to answer a series of sharable personal questions, ranging from the name of their pet to their birth city. Some people see them as a fun way to bond with friends, or a way to make new ones. But as one local police department in Massachusetts recently noted on Facebook, many of these queries are similar—if not identical—to security questions used by banks and other institutions.

"Please be aware of some of the posts you comment on," the Sutton Police Department in Massachusetts wrote in a cautionary message. "The posts that ask what was your first grade teacher, who was your childhood best friend, your first car, the place you [were] born, your favorite place, your first pet, where did you go on your first flight … Those are the same questions asked when setting up accounts as security questions. You are giving out the answers to your security questions without realizing it."

Hackers can use these questions to build a profile and hack into your accounts or open lines of credit, the department said. They could also trick you into clicking on malicious links.

Experts say it's OK to take part in a Facebook quiz, but you should never reveal certain personal facts. Take quizzes only from respected websites, and always carefully vet ones that ask for your email address to access the poll or quiz. And while you're at it, consider steering clear of viral memes, like this one from 2017, which asked Facebook users to name memorable concerts (yet another common security question).

[h/t ABC News]

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