Read the full article here. This may be the first time that the headline was better written than the first paragraph. The writer emphasizes how less willing Americans are to pay relative to people from other countries, when of course the real news is that people are willing to pay for online news. Nevermind the endless hogwash you hear from Silicon Valley about how no one is willing to pay for anything anymore in this brand new economy of ours.
The consulting group who did the study suggests that charging for online news will make American newspapers more profitable. We already knew that from the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and even the smaller-scale Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. But now that "studies show," maybe everyone will listen.
It's not surprising that Americans are more price-sensitive than people in France, Italy, or Spain -- that's true across the board, not just for online news. Spaniards are willing to pay a little more to get a little better quality for just about anything, which is why junk food, Wal-Mart-wear, and skyscrapers have enjoyed much less success over there compared to here. The flipside, which we don't see when we romanticize their lives, is that their choices make them more strapped for cash.
Having lived in Barcelona for about a year, I still prefer the American lifestyle because there are more options here. You can certainly live the human-scale, cosmopolitan life here if you want, but you're also able to wear jean shorts and eat Doritos for your dinner. Given how weak our social bonds are here, and given how cheap the transportation costs are, people will sort themselves into areas where they don't have to be bothered by people who have tastes that offend them. Of course, that sorting is far from complete, so people from across the spectrum are forced to live in the same areas.
While I'm digressing, I think that's another superior aspect of American life -- being forced to interact with people who are different from you, especially those who you'd rather not be around. You always hear people whining about how homogeneous our communities are becoming and that we need to struggle to make them more diverse. But if they think our communities are that way, they should visit any of the European cities that they romanticize. In the same way that whites who live in all-white areas are naive about what black and Hispanic culture is like -- and in general I think naivete is dangerous -- Spaniards were infuriatingly clueless about how Americans really live.
Americans don't hold strong but foolish views about how Spaniards or Italians or anyone lives because they don't give other countries much thought at all. But it was totally common for a Spaniard to ask me "Why does everyone bring guns to school in the U.S.?" while their friends looked at me with a straight face, expecting a serious answer, rather than turn to their friend like, "Nigga, is you crazy?" They had seen Bowling for Columbine -- I mean, how much more research can they be expected to do? It was a real "AFL-CIA" moment.
But that's an example of little consequence. What I really mean is that Spaniards are naive about how slobs live because there are such much fewer of them. Some pleasures we respond to on their own merits, almost reflexively. But many other things that enrich our lives do so even more when they stand out in contrast to their inferiors. Sporting a rakish necktie or savoring some French onion soup in America may make us more snobbish -- "Well, I for one still care about my appearance" -- but I think we draw greater satisfaction from it than a Frenchman does because we look around and see baggy cargo shorts and jelly beans and think to ourselves, "God, that could've been me..."
People in the Latin countries are more likely to take those pleasures for granted, having grown up with them, while the Americans who enjoy them don't process them in such a narrowly hedonistic way -- we feel a humbling sense of gratitude because throughout our daily lives we see how fragile civilized ways of eating and dressing are.
Returning finally to newspapers, I'd bet that those Americans who appreciate good reporting get more out of it than the Germans or Italians do because, as the article notes, we have a much wider variety of news sources here, much of it free crap, while journalism in much of Western Europe is dominated by a few high-quality sources. Reading the WSJ isn't merely rewarding -- it feels like they've come to the rescue! "Jesus, I almost had to go to CNN..."
And don't even get me started on how much more grateful we Americans are for Penelope Cruz than are the Spaniards, who take her for granted...