Last updated: September 01, 2014

The Browser (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the website (the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use and disclosure of Personal Information when you use our Service.

We will not use or share your information with anyone except as described in this Privacy Policy.

We use your Personal Information for providing and improving the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible at

Information Collection And Use

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you. Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to, your email address (“Personal Information”).

Log Data

We collect information that your browser sends whenever you visit our Service (“Log Data”). This Log Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol (“IP”) address, browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages and other statistics.

In addition, we may use third party services such as Google Analytics that collect, monitor and analyze this type of information in order to increase our Service’s functionality. These third party service providers have their own privacy policies addressing how they use such information.


Cookies are files with small amount of data, which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a web site and stored on your computer’s hard drive.

We use “cookies” to collect information. You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service.

Service Providers

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service, to provide the Service on our behalf, to perform Service-related services or to assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Information only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.


We may use your Personal Information to contact you with newsletters, marketing or promotional materials and other information that may be of interest to you. You may opt out of receiving any, or all, of these communications from us by following the unsubscribe link or instructions provided in any email we send.

Compliance With Laws

We will disclose your Personal Information where required to do so by law or subpoena or if we believe that such action is necessary to comply with the law and the reasonable requests of law enforcement or to protect the security or integrity of our Service.

Business Transaction

If The Browser is involved in a merger, acquisition or asset sale, your Personal Information may be transferred. We will provide notice before your Personal Information is transferred and becomes subject to a different Privacy Policy.


The security of your Personal Information is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Information, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

International Transfer

Your information, including Personal Information, may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ than those from your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United Kingdom and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the information, including Personal Information, to United Kingdom and processes it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Links To Other Sites

Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click on a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over, and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Children’s Privacy

Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 13 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Children has provided us with Personal Information, please contact us. If we discover that a Children under 13 has provided us with Personal Information, we will delete such information from our servers immediately.

Changes To This Privacy Policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us.

Beyond Paywalls: A Note To Subscribers

We have been thinking for some time at The Browser about the advance of paywalls. They are good in principle: Publishers need revenues in order to publish good writing, and business models driven by advertising lead very quickly to bad writing. Payment for content is the answer. But it seems hard on most readers to require a monthly or yearly subscription in order to read a particular article. 

Our solution is to launch a service enabling readers to pay to read newspaper and magazine articles that are published behind paywalls. The reader can pay to read a single article without having to buy a monthly or yearly subscription to the publication. We have called the service 1Pass.

Our aim is to make 1Pass an attractive sales channel for any reputable publisher. We have been lucky enough to start at the top, with an agreement to offer selected articles from the Financial Times. We expect to add more publications soon. 

We hope Browser subscribers will sympathise with the 1Pass project. For the time being there is no need to take any action. Whenever we offer an FT article for sale through 1Pass, we will also provide it to Browser subscribers as part of their subscription. 

We have also made agreements with The Economist and Foreign Affairs, so that we can republish selected articles from these publications for Browser subscribers to read.

The result is that we have a new section on The Browser home page in which we offer our choice of articles from the Financial Times (a new article each weekday); from The Economist (a new article each week); and from Foreign Affairs (three articles each month). 

It is important for us to stress that we are choosing the articles on merit. This is not a marketing deal in which the publications pay The Browser to feature particular articles; it is a syndication deal in which The Browser pays the publishers for the right to offer selected articles to our subscribers.

I would expect to include many of these articles in my daily recommendations. But there is no particular rule here. I will continue to read and recommend on merit.

In practical terms:

— If you are logged in to The Browser website, when you click on a recommended article from the Financial Times, The Economist or Foreign Affairs, you should be able to read the full text of the article, republished on The Browser. If you are taken to the publisher’s website, then you are probably not logged in.

— The same applies if you click on a link in the daily email. If you are logged in to The Browser, you should be able to read the full text of the article, republished on The Browser. If you are taken to the publisher’s website; or taken to a page on The Browser that contains only the first paragraph of the recommended article; then you are probably not logged in.

We hope that 1Pass will grow into a larger business, allowing publishers to sell individual articles directly from their own websites. That is why we have given it a separate name. If you’d like to find out more about 1Pass, please do have a look at the starter website — — and tell us what you think.


Speculations & Jihad

Today I added to my RSS feed: Victor Niederhoffer’s Daily Speculations. First recommended to me by Megan McArdle, who I think had been to a libertarian salon hosted by Niederhoffer a decade ago.

A piece that I didn’t post on The Browser, but which did give me pause for thought: The Question Of Theodicy And Jihad. I admired the discussion of violence and the Quran, but I wanted more follow-through.

Paid Content

We are thrilled to say that we can now offer the full text of paywalled content from The Economist and the Financial Times on The Browser. These offerings complement the full-yet articles from Foreign Affairs that we have been offering in recent months.

We are not being paid to carry this content; on the contrary, we select the articles ourselves, and we pay publishers for the right to carry them on The Browser. 

This is the start of our response to the prevalence of paywalls, which have become almost universal among larger publishers. These paywalls are often metered — the casual visitor gets one or more articles free each week or month before being pressed to subscribe. But I don’t feel comfortable recommending articles that many subscribers will be unable to read; and I feel that in the case of the particular publications with which we now have contracts — the Financial Times, The Economist, Foreign Affairs — a regular section of content will be a real benefit to our subscribers.

We intend that visitors to The Browser who are not subscribers to The Browser will be able to buy the individual paywalled articles that we recommend, using our new single-article sales platform, which we are calling 1Pass. So far, only articles from the Financial Times are available through 1Pass; but that’s the best possible start, and we hope to add more publications shortly.

Information Overload: Source Notes

Thanks to all our London friends who came to Forge & Co for an enjoyable and rewarding discussion of information overload yesterday.

Thanks especially to our hosts, Nicolas Granatino and the Cronycle team, for their generous hospitality; and to our panelists Anatole Kaletsky, Bill Emmott, Dayo Forster and Turi Munthe.

I promised a quick note of the sites and tools mentioned in the course of the conversations. Here it is.

Cronycle — — is the reading platform that Nicolas and his team introduced yesterday evening. The reading experience is similar to that of Flipboard; the key difference is that you can load Cronycle with your own choice of content using RSS and social-media feeds, curate your own collections, and/or create your own reading mix from the RSS feeds in Cronycle’s library. We see Cronycle as a natural fit with The Browser for reading on iPads. Early feedback would be most welcome.

Ada’s List
forum and list for women in tech

New Inquiry
online intellectual magazine recommended for its Sunday links

Daily Maverick
South African daily newspaper — Dayo’s first stop for news from Africa

Open Europe
news & analysis focused on European and EU affairs — Bill’s first stop for things European

of interest for its effective use of video; click “watch” in the nav bar for video offerings

open publishing platform for writers and groups of writers

News Deeply:
publishing platform for complex stories

Feedly is the most robust RSS reader. Free. It syncs well with Reeder, a paid iOS app which works offline (Feedly does not). I use Feedly to manage my feeds and Reeder to read them offline and

Vellum is a reading layer for Twitter hosted by the New York Times. It strips out URLs shared by people you follow on Twitter, ranks them, and presents them as posts: (an alternative: Digg Deeper

Daily news-briefing app from the Economist (free to subscribers; others pay, I think)

E-mail Newsletters:

I believe all are free except the Oriental Economist, which costs $100/year

Vox (the sign-up box is at the very bottom of the home-page
Next Draft
Science Daily
France Culture (the sign-up box is at the top right of the home page
Media/REDEF (the sign-up box is at the top left of the home page)
Benedict Evans
Quartz (click the envelope icon at the top right)
Oriental Economist


New Yorker — The Political Scene
FT World Weekly with Gideon Rachman
TED Talks

A Note To Our Newsletter Readers

News from The Browser:

1 We’ve added a new option for reading The Browser offline. If you have an account with Pocket (, you can choose to have all the articles recommended in The Browser Daily Newsletter sent automatically as full text to your Pocket queue. To activate this option, log in to The Browser website (; click the “preferences” link at the top; then, on your Preferences page, under “automatic read-later services”, enable “auto-posting to Pocket”. If you don’t have an account with Pocket, do consider opening one. Everything about it is free and, in our experience, amazingly neat and useful.

2 We’ve redesigned our web site, at If you haven’t visited for a while, please do drop in and tell us what you think. While you are there, you might want to click through to the Culture and Tech supplements; and to FYI, the experimental page on which we review paywalled content.

3 If you want to comment on anything in or about The Browser, please do you use the Feedback button on the website ( By default, your comment will be seen by other subscribers. So it’s a good place to make points about the site that you think might be of interest to others; or to comment on the substance of articles that we’ve recommended; or to recommend articles that we might have missed.

A Golden Age For Paid Content

It’s coming, if publishers can get three things right.

Readers will pay for content online so long as three conditions are met:

1 The content is worth paying for.
2 The price is low.
3 The transaction is easy.

There are some trade-offs within those criteria. If you have an overwhelming need for a particular channel of content — the Financial Times, say, or The Economist — then you will accept a relatively high price, and quite a lot of friction in the process of subscribing.

But for paid content to be the rule rather than the exception, publishers need to deliver on all three criteria at once.

Here’s how it can happen.

There’s no particular problem or mystery associated with providing content worth paying for. Publishers do it all the time. What’s amazing is how much good writing is currently available for free. For example, I’d certainly pay to read the NYR Blog, provided that the price was right and the transaction was easy.

Getting to the right price is more of an issue. Publishers think in terms of one-to-many relations with their readers, and price accordingly; but readers want a one-to-many relationship with publishers. Each publisher wants to sell one subscription to every reader for $60 a year; but each reader would much rather buy ten subscriptions to ten publications for $6 a year each.

The customer is always right. With much lower prices and much bigger volumes, everyone would be better off.

Frictionless purchasing is getting closer, but it’s not evenly distributed.

You have it once you get inside the closed systems of the Kindle and the iTunes store — and the effect of it is clear and liberating. You sample more, you buy more. To return to the case of the NYR Blog, I’m 90% sure I’d pay $1 a month to read that content, even if I had to go through PayPal to do so. But I’m 100% sure I’d pay $1 a month to read it if I was buying with a single click on my Kindle, and 90% sure I’d pay $2.

But how to make frictionless transactions for individual pieces of content outside the closed systems? We need the internet equivalent of a Metro Card (in London: an Oyster Card), which is to say, a pass that the reader can preload with so many prepaid page views — say 100 page views for $10 — and then use to access individual pieces of paid content on any participating publisher’s website.

When we can meet all three criteria — quality content, low pricing, frictionless purchasing — we can do for paid content what app stores have done for software. Remember when software in a box used to cost $100, and you might buy a couple of things a year that you really needed? Now it costs $1 and you buy it on impulse.

We’re going to get there, even if the prepaid pass takes — I would guess — another year or two to arrive and scale. For the past five years or so we’ve been in a golden age of free content. Now we’re moving into a golden age of paid content, and that’s going to be even better.

(first published in, 24th July 2013)

Adding An Icon To An Android Phone

Ondrej Cabejsek was kind enough to provide this note of his method for adding an icon for The Browser to the home screen of his Android phone:

i) Native Android browser (“Internet”): press Menu, select Add to, select Home screen

ii) Chrome: press Menu, select “Star” button on top of the tab which will take you to “Edit Bookmark” and there you select “In” in which you further select “Mobile Bookmarks” and click Save. Now you’re back on the The Browser page. Press Menu again, select Bookmarks (Mobile Bookmarks if necessary) and you’ll see The Browser icon. Hold it until a drop down menu appears and select “Add to home screen”

Save To Kindle Via Readability

First, you need to have an account with Readability, which is free, and a useful resource in any case. Get one at … then

1 Log on to

2 From the drop down menu called “Your Account” at the right of the search bar, choose “Manage Your Kindle”

3 On the “Manage Your Kindle” page, choose “Personal Document Settings” in the navigation bar at the left.

4 On the “Personal Document Settings” page, you will see a section called “send-to-Kindle email settings”

5 Make a note of the email address of your Kindle

6 Further down this same page, you will see a section called “Approved Personal Document Email List”

7 At the bottom of this section there is link to “add a new approved email address”

8 Click on this link, and add

9 Log out of

10 Go to

11 You have already completed the first step on the Readability checklist. What you need to do here is complete the second step: give Readability the email address of your Kindle (the one that you noted down while you were at And do be sure to choose the right domain name from the drop-down menu — or com

That’s it. It’s a bore, but you only have to do it once. After that, you can send to Kindle direct from The Browser. Hurrah!

Changes At The Browser

Letter To Members, March 18th 2013

Dear Member of The Browser,

First, my thanks to the many correspondents who wrote in response to my last letter, to share their likes and dislikes about The Browser, and to offer suggestions for future development.

I began by replying to each letter, but soon the volume overwhelmed me, for which I apologise. I was moved to discover how much affection The Browser commands , and sorry to learn about the technical problems which have been an irritation to many.

This will be quite a long email, so let me state first the headline points, for members who don’t want all the detail:

1) We have redesigned The Browser website so that it works equally well on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones. This new design will make its debut on March 28th. There will be no change in our content: The Browser will continue to offer daily links to the best recent articles, a quotation of the day and a video of the day, exactly as the present site does.

2) We will be shutting down our iOS and Android apps on March 28th. We have already disabled the downloading of these apps. I am sorry for the disruption that this will cause to members who use the apps regularly. But we can’t maintain and support the apps as we should, and the volume of technical complaints has been growing. Our new site will offer a browsing experience on mobile devices at least as good as that offered previously by the apps.

3) The new design will allow members to save articles of interest with one click to any of the three big read-later services — Readability, Instapaper, and Pocket. These dedicated services have many advantages over The Browser Reading List, which will be discontinued along with the apps.

4) With the launch of the new design, we are moving to a new business model. Members will continue to have unlimited free use of the site. Non-members will be able to click on up to ten links each month for free. Beyond that, they will be asked to pay a membership fee of $12/year. (This is more of a nudge than a paywall. A visitor who wants to see what we recommend, but doesn’t want to support us, can copy and paste our headlines into Google.)

5) If you would prefer to cancel your old membership and claim a refund of the unexpired portion of your subscription, that’s perfectly fair. Please email me,, with “refund” in the subject line, and say whether you’d prefer cash by PayPal, or an Amazon gift voucher. (Those are the only two ways we can think of that don’t incur disproportionate charges. If you have a better way, please do say.)

6) You don’t have to decide now. Please give the new site a chance, see how it works on your tablet or phone — and if you aren’t satisfied, then I’ll refund you at the drop of an email.

* * * *

Those are the main points. But please do stay with me if you’d like some more detail.

A lot of what we are doing here is a rationalising of The Browser after the parting of ways with Five Books at New Year. Five Books now has a temporary site at, to which new interviews are again being added after a six-month hiatus. I’ve seen some of the artwork for the site as it will be in the future, and it will be gorgeous.

The Browser, more than ever, has the virtues of simplicity: five or six links a day, a quotation and a video. The new web site will be plain and elegant. It uses a responsive design, meaning that the layout adjusts automatically to any screen size — from a big desktop monitor down to a mobile phone.

You will be able to put an icon for the new site on to the home screen of your tablet and phone, so that the site loads as easily as a native app would.

The decision to close down the apps was a painful one. They were expensive to build, and they have given some readers great pleasure. But by the same token, they were expensive to maintain, and I was receiving a high and rising volume of complaints from readers frustrated by failures in the login procedure and the refreshing of content. On balance, I fear, they were giving as much pain as pleasure.

I apologise particularly to readers who made frequent use of the Reading List function, which was a central feature of the apps. But if you try out Readability, or Instapaper, or Pocket, you will find that they do the same job much better.

Readability, Instapaper and Pocket are all free. All allow you to save pieces from anywhere on the Internet to read later, on a computer, a mobile device, or a Kindle. For new users, probably the friendliest of the three services is Readability — See how you like it. Possibly you may decide that you prefer Instapaper ( or Pocket (

Even if you are upset by the loss of the apps, I hope that you will try our new site — and I hope you will find it in every way an improvement over the old one.

There is a new business model, but one that will restrict only non-members. Anybody will be able to visit The Browser and see what we are recommending. Non-members will be able to click on up to ten links a month for free; but after that, they will be asked to pay a membership fee of $12/year. Members will log in to the site with an email address only; we are doing away with passwords, as bothersome and unnecessary. (We will not be holding any account information on the site. Nothing is at risk.)

That’s probably enough for the moment. Please do let me know how all this strikes you, and I will do my best to add and clarify where I can.

Thank you for supporting The Browser.

With best wishes

Robert Cottrell

My Life As A Screen Slave

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Financial Times, published there, as “Net Wisdom”, on February 15th 2013, reflecting on my work as editor of The Browser:

FOR MUCH of my adult life I was a diligent producer of daily and weekly journalism. In recent years I have become a gargantuan consumer of it. It is a privilege to earn one’s living by writing but, as I discovered, it is also a privilege, and a less stressful one, to earn one’s living by reading.

I read all day. Were it not for the demands of sleep and family life, I would read all night. My aim is to find all the writing worth reading on the internet, and to recommend the five or six best pieces each day on my website, the Browser. I pass over in silence here the Browser’s many virtues. My purpose here is to share with you four lessons I have learnt in five years’ drinking from the fire hose.

My first contention: this is a great time to be a reader. The amount of good writing freely available online far exceeds what even the most dedicated consumer might have hoped to encounter a generation ago within the limits of printed media.

I don’t pretend that everything online is great writing. Let me go further: only 1 per cent is of value to the intelligent general reader, by which I mean the demographic that, in the mainstream media world, might look to the Economistthe Financial TimesForeign Affairs or the Atlantic for information. Another 4 per cent of the internet counts as entertaining rubbish. The remaining 95 per cent has no redeeming features. But even the 1 per cent of writing by and for the elite is an embarrassment of riches, a horn of plenty, a garden of delights.

Each day I seek my six pieces with these criteria in mind: would I go out of my way to recommend this piece to one of my own friends? Will it inform and delight the intelligent general reader? Will it still be worth reading a month or a year from now?

I apply those rules, and I am almost always surprised and delighted myself by the stuff I bring back, all for free. Today, for example – I am writing this on February 7 – my final cut includes:

● an essay by the musician David Byrne, on his own blog, about civil disobedience and the case of Aaron Swartz, the internet prodigy who committed suicide under threat of prosecution.

● a scholarly book review in the online edition of Dissent magazine, by Steven Randy Waldman, about the history of financial risk, and the tensions between risk and personal freedom.

● a commentary for the New Republic by Jeffrey Rosen, professor of law at George Washington University, on why the Obama administration’s guidelines for assassinating US citizens abroad are unconstitutional.

These are the best, the top drawer, the keepers. I know when I have found such a piece, because I cannot stop reading until the end.

As such, they are relatively rare. Where the internet excels is in serving up plentiful writing that sits, you might say, one level down: at the level of very good daily journalism, whether on subjects of immediate interest for a general audience or more esoteric subjects for a specialised audience. I see scores of pieces each day that are plainly written, strongly argued and highly informative.

Where is it coming from? Some of it comes from professional journalists, writing for the websites of established publications or on their own blogs. But much of it – the great new addition to our writing and reading culture – comes from professionals in other fields who find the time, the motivation and the opportunity to write for anyone who cares to read. I am sorry that the internet gifted this practice with such an ugly name, “blogging”, but it is too late to change that now.

As a gross generalisation, academics make excellent bloggers, within and beyond their specialist fields. So, too, do aid workers, lawyers, musicians, doctors, economists, poets, financiers, engineers, publishers and computer scientists. They blog for pleasure; they blog for visibility within their field; they blog to raise their value and build their markets as authors and public speakers; they blog because their peers do.

Businessmen and politicians make the worst bloggers because they do not like to tell what they know, and telling what you know is the essence of blogging well. They also fear to be wrong; and, as Felix Salmon, Reuters’ finance blogger, insists and sometimes demonstrates: “If you are never wrong, you are never interesting”.

To read the blog of a political scientist, or an anthropologist, or a lawyer, or an information technologist, is the next best thing to reading their mind; better, in some ways, since what they have to say emerges in considered form. These are the experts who, a couple of decades ago, would have functioned as sources for newspaper journalists. Their opinions would emerge often mangled and simplified, always truncated, in articles over which they had no final control.

Now we can read them directly, and discover what they actually think and say. We can know, for example, what lawyers are saying about a new appointment to the Supreme Court; what political scientists expect from an election; how computer scientists evaluate Apple’s updated operating system; what economists expect from a new government policy. The general reader has access to expertise that was easily available, a decade ago, only to the insider or the specialist.

Here are some elite blogs for your reading diet, if you don’t have them bookmarked already. For American legal commentary, I recommend the Volokh Conspiracy. For political science, the Monkey Cage. For economics, Marginal Revolution. For computing, Asymco. For literature, the Millions. Treat these as starting points: most blogs feature a shortlist of other recommended blogs in the same field, providing stepping stones with which to explore further.

My second contention as a professional reader is one that may seem self-evident in the world of blogging but also holds good across the whole universe of online writing and publishing: the writer is everything. The corollary of this also holds good: the publisher (with a few exceptions) is nothing.

After thousands of diligent appraisals, I can confidently sign off on this excessively simple truth: good writers write good pieces, regardless of subject and regardless of publication. Mediocre writers write mediocre pieces. And nothing at all can rescue a bad writer.

A simple assertion, but put it in context and it becomes more complex and interesting. Think back to the days when print media ruled. Your basic unit of consumption was not the article, nor the writer, but the publication. You bought the publication in the hope or expectation that it would contain good writing. The publisher was the guarantor of quality.

Professional writers still see value in having publishers online, not so much as guarantors of quality, but because publishers pay for writing – or, increasingly, if they do not pay for it, they do at least publish it in a place where it will get read.

Readers, on the other hand, have less of a need for publishers. One striking trend I have noticed in the past five years is the way in which individual articles uncouple themselves from the places where they are first published, to lead their own lives across the internet, passed from hand to hand between readers.

This is due, in large part, to the rise of social media – primarily Facebook and Twitter. Five years ago, you needed to visit a publisher’s website to see what was new there. Now, you hear about a particular article through Twitter or Facebook; a friend will share the link; you may visit the page directly but more probably you will save the link to your Instapaper or your Readability account, or mark it for reading later in your Flipboard feed, or on your Kindle or other reading device, and you will enjoy the piece later, probably offline. The article is what matters to the reader; the place of original publication may not even be noticed.

Indeed, from a reader’s point of view, many online publishers subtract value. Let us say you have a writer who wants a reader; and a reader who wants a writer. Perfect. But if there is a publisher involved, his instincts will probably be to fill the space between reader and writer with banner advertisements, the object of which is to distract the reader from reading.

There are exceptions. As a reader I applaud, in no particular order, the New Yorkerthe New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, the London Review of Books, and McSweeney’s. They and others like them take seriously the job of publishing online. They care about building sites and apps that make readers want to read, and writers want to write. They show intelligence, good taste, and restraint. Long may they prosper.

That said, it seems to me almost inevitable that a new business model for reading and writing online will prevail in the future, which consists of readers rewarding directly the writers they admire. Almost inevitable, because this is by far the most efficient economic arrangement for both parties, and there are no longer any significant technological obstacles to its general adoption.

That also seems to be the view of Andrew Sullivan, the English-born American-based journalist who made his name in the 1990s as editor of the New Republic, before founding the Daily Dish, a wide-ranging political blog, in 2000. It now attracts about 1.8m unique visitors a month.

After years of successive partnerships with Time magazine, the Atlantic, and the Daily Beast, Sullivan decided this year to take the Dish independent, saying he wanted “to create a place where readers – and readers alone – sustain the site”. Subscriptions are priced at $19.99 a year: during January alone, Sullivan raised $511,000 for the new venture.

Lesser blogs may not be able to raise money on Sullivan’s scale but nor may they need to do so. The important lesson of the Dish experiment so far is that, contrary to received wisdom, internet users are willing to pay for content but that loyalty and affection towards the particular writer or brand probably have to be a big part of the transaction.

And so to my third contention: we overvalue new writing, almost absurdly so, and we undervalue older writing. I feel this market failure keenly each day when I recommend a fine piece of writing that deserves to be read for years to come and yet will have at most two days in the sun.

You never hear anybody say, “I’m not going to listen to that record because it was released last year,” or, “I’m not going to watch that film because it came out last month.” Why are we so much less interested in journalism that’s a month or a year old?

The answer is that we have been on the receiving end of decades of salesmanship from the newspaper industry, telling us that today’s newspaper is essential but yesterday’s newspaper is worthless.

That distinction has been increasingly bogus since newspapers lost their news-breaking role to faster media 50 years ago, and began filling their pages with more and more timeless writing.

While consumers had to rely on print media, the distinction between old and new could be sustained by availability: today’s newspaper was everywhere, yesterday’s newspaper was nowhere, except perhaps in the cat litter.

Online, that distinction disappears – or it should. You can call up a year-old piece as easily as you can call up a day-old piece. And yet we hardly ever do so, because we are so hardly ever prompted to do so. Which condemns tens if not hundreds of thousands of perfectly serviceable articles to sleep in writers’ and publishers’ archives, written off, never to be seen again.

Why do even big publishing groups with the resources to do so (the New Yorker is an honourable exception) make so little attempt to organise, prioritise and monetise their archives?

The best explanation I can suggest comes from an analogy given to me by George Brock, a former managing editor of The Times, who is now professor of journalism at City University in London. Think of a newspaper or magazine as a mountain of data, he says, to which a thin new layer of topsoil gets added each day or each week. Everybody sees the new soil. But what’s underneath gets covered up and forgotten. Even the people who own the mountain don’t know what’s in the lower layers.

They might try to find out but that demands a whole new set of tools. And, besides, they are too busy adding the new layer of topsoil each day.

I suspect that the wisest new hire for any long-established newspaper or magazine would be a smart, disruptive archive editor. Why just sit on a mountain of classic content, when you could be digging into it and finding buried treasure?

My fourth contention is that the internet is a force for brevity. Hard to believe, I know. You think of it as a place where people witter on for ever.

But when you’re writing online, you don’t have to fill an expected space or length, as you do when you write for a print publication. When you have a fixed space to fill, the temptation is to provide the minimal decent amount of original work needed, wrapped up in the maximum tolerable amount of verbiage. When you have no particular space to fill, there’s no marginal utility to be derived from going on any longer than you need to.

It helps, too, that when you’re writing online, there’s no need to introduce and source every person, place and fact you mention, and no need to fill in the backstory for those new to the subject. You can link out to the source document or the related story – or just assume your reader knows how to use Google and Wikipedia.

This trend towards brevity is even more marked when it comes to books. Online publishing has spawned a new category of short books, 10,000 to 30,000 words long – Kindle Singles, Penguin Shorts, Atavist Originals and others – that give writers the space in which to turn round a big idea or a big story quickly and nimbly. Very often, 10,000 to 30,000 words is all a big idea needs, when you don’t need to bulk it out with anecdotes to justify the price of a hardback book or to make sure it still has some value when it finally gets printed in a year. You can keep your thesis lean and topical. One of the most discussed popular economics books of the past two years, The Great Stagnation, by Tyler Cowen, was written as a 15,000-word ebook.

I could go on. But, speaking of brevity, here you will have to excuse me. I have 775 unread items from today in my RSS feed, and about six hours of Twitter to spool back through. Somebody has to do it, and I’m glad it’s me.

Robert Cottrell is editor of the Browser,