I’m sure I’ve written this before: I don’t mind paying for content. I buy books, magazines, the downloadable equivalent of CDs and so on. In every case, it’s because what I’m buying has some value to me, whether it’s access to a range of ideas, the chance to hear good music or even the value of having something to read while I eat lunch.

I also fully avail myself of all of the content that is freely available.

In the wake of an explosion of blog posts, essays and the like on the idea of paywalls for newspapers (I’ve included a list of links at the end of this post), I’ve been thinking about whether I would pay for access to the Vancouver Sun, my locally quality daily and home to the biggest and, arguably, the best newsroom in the region.

So far, the answer is no and the reason is that, despite the strength of their newsroom, I can’t find anything of particular value that would convince me to shell out.

If the newspaper were to completely disappear behind a paywall (which is highly unlikely), I wouldn’t miss out on major, important news as long as radio and TV exist and as long as people keep talking to each other, either face to face or through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.

I wouldn’t miss out to any great extent on the much-ballyhooed context, either, for the same reasons, and because I’ve lived in this province for almost four decades and carry a lot of the knowledge needed for context with me. That which I don’t know is readily available through archive searches, magazines, books, etc. and I’m willing to work at understanding issues that deeply concern me.

The Sun has place great emphasis on its columnists (they’re featured on the front page and strongly throughout the newspaper). But I don’t read any of them regularly and there are several — probably the majority — that I don’t read at all, so there’s little value for me there.

Events listings? Coming attractions? Everything is well-covered by neighbourhood blogs, free newspapers (especially Georgia Straight), and a growing number of independent Vancouver online publications.

As I run through the paper, I find it hard to find anything that I would value enough to pay for.

I’m not suggesting I’m normal. Unlike, I suspect, the majority of people, I have the technology, time and inclination to deal with a “river of news” for a wide and varied set of sources, many of which are outside traditional media.

But this does create a problem for newspaper like the Sun: how to keep financing the newsgathering. Revenue from some form of paywall has to be part of that — I’m not one of those who argue against workable concepts of paywalls for newspapers; I remain agnostic — but, at the moment, I see nothing of enough value to convince me to be part of that.

Perhaps the problem is this: many of the proposals for paywalls (follow the links below) seem to be predicated on the mistaken belief that traditional media can create the conditions for a return to scarcity, when the range of readily available options means scarcity is no longer possible. The effort should be going into creating true value, an admittedly difficult task, when there are so many potential readers with so many different definitions of value.

Further reading (by no means an exhaustive list; many of these all feature links for those of you wanting to drill deeply):