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Why the Concurrent Did Away with the Paywall

One of the most monumental stories in media is the Elon Musk takeover of Twitter. This happened a week ago from Friday and has been producing headlines ever since from him floating an $8 a month charge to have a blue check mark to mass layoffs.

An infamous exchange that went viral was Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) laughing at Musk for, “trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is an $8/mo subscription plan.”

The Congresswoman is mistaking a definition of free meaning “gratis” with free meaning “liberty.” Same word; two very different meanings. If you can’t tell the difference, walk into the Chronicle office, demand a complimentary copy based on your First Amendment rights and see what they say.

As bad as this mistake from AOC is, the media’s coverage, including personalities on Twitter itself, hasn’t been much better. Underlying the absurdity of their analysis is a fundamental misunderstanding of value.

But truthfully it’s hard to cast stones because I too have been struggling with the same concept while building the Concurrent. What I’ve learned from Elon Musk this week, combined with running into the buzzsaw that is Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has led me to this decision - the Concurrent is better without a paywall.

First let me thank those who did subscribe. I’ve had great discussions with dozens of you over these last 10 months and even more I’ve never talked to, but judging by the numbers of views on each piece, are faithful readers. I put my faith in people’s intellectual curiosity and you stepped up.

Now here’s what happened. I reprioritized the value that the Concurrent can provide Citrus. I used to think that this value was my perspective on issues. You’ve taught me with your own writing that it’s so much more than that. The enrichment of as many voices as possible is what is best. Even Elon Musk recognizes the value a platform can bring the public when run properly and that’s why he viewed buying Twitter as “freeing” the platform.

This is why the Concurrent has shifted its focus to two roles: a news aggregator and an editorial platform. The aggregator is to combine a bunch of the voices who have been doing it a while professionally in one place. The platform is to amplify your voice because a good idea can come from anywhere.

A few recent changes reflect the emphasis on these two goals. Anyone can create a free account on the Concurrent and post about whatever topic they want. That post now instantaneously appears at the top of the homepage of the website. The forum is also a new standalone tab on the mobile app.

The landing page for the mobile app though, the thing everyone sees when they open it, is the news aggregator. The Concurrent is not in the reporting business the way the Chronicle or even Just Wright Citrus are, but we are in the “connecting you to the news” business and our ability to use push notifications to keep you instantaneously in the know about local affairs is an important part of delivering value to you. This means the mobile app is of the utmost importance.

That’s where Apple comes in. If you haven’t received a push notification in a while, it’s probably because you’re on an iPhone. Apple takes 30% of any in-app purchases as a tax for being allowed to be listed in their app store. You don’t get to a $3 trillion valuation without some super intrusive, anti-competitive practices. The premium subscription option got flagged as not paying the piper and the functionality (such as push notifications) was disabled for much of the year.

The mobile app does more than just push notifications. It has a live stream of tweets, the Facebook feed, the pictures from Instagram, the audio podcasts from Anchor and the video content from YouTube - all without requiring the user to visit different websites or, even more importantly, have an account.

This means with both the Concurrent print edition and the mobile app the platform can truly become a bridge between the traditional and digital worlds all without requiring the person to be on social media.

For much of this year, I defined value as instant monetization. That was necessary but it’s not the goal of the Concurrent. Value should instead be defined as the need it fulfills for you.

The aggregator and platform approach, in print and on mobile but independent of social media, is what I sincerely believe is best. Oh yeah, and I’m going to keep writing too.


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