“Is Harry Potter cancelled?”

It was a Toronto Star headline in my google news feed this morning. I clicked on it, and hit a paywall. I would have to become a paying subscriber to read the article.

Why would a Quebec resident subscribe to a mostly Toronto-centric newspaper? If there is any big Toronto news I need to know about, it will be covered on free national sites like CBC News and CTV News, and by subscriber-based outlets I do access free of charge by virtue of my work association with Postmedia News (The National Post, Financial Post, Montreal Gazette etc.).

I’m already a paying subscriber to the New York Times and to the independent news project recently launched by Christopher Curtis (a.k.a. The Rover) in association with Ricochet. And I’ve lost count of the free newsletters that show up in my email in-box.

So, it struck me this morning that the Toronto Star — and other newspapers with paywalls, no doubt — lost an opportunity by denying me free access to the Harry Potter opinion piece. At the least, they lost a click, and advertisers lost a pair of eyes. And the writer lost the joy of having one more person read their words.

I get why newspapers like the Toronto Star put up paywalls. They need subscribers because ad revenue isn’t sufficient. But they are not going to get many subscribers outside of the province of Ontario. Why not have software that allows national and international readers to access their sites freely, with ads from multi-nationals targeting them, and make the locals pay — as they should?

I know that most metro newspapers aren’t thinking about international readership, with the exception the New York Times, the Guardian and some others. The rationale is there’s little money in it for them — though they will happily take subscriptions from life forms anywhere in the universe.

But what harm would it have been if the Toronto Star allowed me to read the Harry Potter piece today?

Perhaps they don’t have the software for gateways that keep non-paying locals out and let national and international readers in. And perhaps they don’t really feel it is worth the money. Perhaps they see readers as dollar signs.

Personally, I treasure every reader, be it here or on my newspaper’s website.

As for the headline question about Harry Potter, no, of course not. We’ve had the discussion here before. Art stands alone, despite the controversies that may surround its creators. Harry Potter has not been cancelled. Nor have the works of Lewis Carroll, thought by some to have been too cozy with the real-life Alice, or Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein, who both brought some great movies to the screen.

Once created, art stands alone.

— Jillian