1. There is a lot of free content - yeah, the internet is full of free content, but much of is click-bait garbage, or re-posted a billion times. Let's be honest - true, honest-to-goodness original journalism costs money. Good writing costs money. Investigating journalism costs money. Getting people to actually go out into the real world, and interview people, or write about stuff costs money. Who's going to pay for that?
Pick up an article from the New Statesman, or The Economist, or The New York Times - compare that to the offal you get on Buzzfeed, or one of the billion other click-bait sites.
When all those actual journalists go out of business - you'll get everybody coming out of the woodwork complaining that they can't get news, or it's all just PR puff-pieces from companies, or sound-bites from political spokespersons. And people on the internet will whine that <insert random politician> is corrupt and only got elected because nobody could be bothered reporting on politics. Or that everything they read is beholden to corporate or political interests.
2. Your view is US centric - I'm not from the US, so I'm not really sure how to respond to this. Or are you just assuming, because you're not from the US, and it's convenient to erect a strawman?
Or are you saying there's poor people on the internet? Sure, I'm certain there are. In fact, there's poor people without access to access to computers, or the internet either. I suspect those people probably don't care (yet) to read articles from The Economist, or New Statesman either.
I'm specifically addressing people who access these sites, and still want to access them by blocking ads, or circumventing their anti-ad-block. So please don't erect some strawman, or turn this into a "Oh, but I'm poor! Please, give me free stuff!" plea. Poor people have do have problems and deserve compassion - but being able to get free articles from Forbes, or Wired probably isn't their main concern.
3. Cost of privacy is indirect - I see this as market forces. As in, if people don't want to do a normal "I pay a dollar, you give me a newspaper to read", then newspapers need to find other ways to monetise. I do have issues about that - but I certainly don't see either side as particularly clean in this fight.
That said on the matter of independent (read no advertising) investigative journalism publishing online the number of available spots are limited and the first to move will seize the better place on the market. Look at how mediapart.fr established itself in France and how many stories they get out compared to the other newspapers. They are a success established on initial funding giving no power to the funder and now entirely paid by the readers.
Lesson here is there are people willing to pay and support a truly independent online newspaper, the demand is here and the old newspaper who are dependent on ads and controlled by who has the most shares are not fulfilling it.
Investigative journalism is in its death throes, and it's not because of lack of money. It's because of lack of interest from audiences.
Nowadays, journalism is all about who breaks the story first. This is why people are saying (only half-jokingly) that we live in a "post-facto" world: investigating leads and verifying facts take a lot of time, during which your rivals might publish the story and get all the eyeballs and therefore ad money. And if they get the facts wrong, or the entire story ends up being incorrect? No one really cares, because by then everyone has moved on to the next thing that is demanding their attention.
>>Pick up an article from the New Statesman, or The Economist, or The New York Times - compare that to the offal you get on Buzzfeed, or one of the billion other click-bait sites.
Buzzfeed is known for clickbaits, but it has some honest-to-god excellent long-form articles. Here is an example: https://www.buzzfeed.com/suzannecope/up-in-the-air-with-caro...
From what i gather so far, they're doing a wonderful job and expanding rapidly without losing money. I think there's plenty room for initiatives like that in specific niches as well.
My impression of NYT and The Economist and such is that while they're trying, they're still way too tethered to an older model which, among other things, requires more money for (relatively) more crap. And while on behalf of good journalism I lament the period of turmoil as they fight their fight but eventually disappear, I think it's necessary for more targeted, leaner journalism to take over.
How do you explain the success of vice?
But the actual point you were arguing was: Is it legitimate to block ads and/or circumvent paywalls? What about the poor? or non-Americans?
The latter two aren't actually new situations for publishers – they have actually always operated in 0-marginal-cost environments, and have therefore developed strategies to capture any "consumer surplus" they can get. For those cases, there has always been country-specific pricing as well as discount schemes. Most common are probably student discounts, but you can also do price discrimination by making people jump through hoops to get discounts, essentially trading time for money. That's the principle behind supermarket coupons.
Regarding your technical scenarios: You're trying to do some legalistic hair-splitting, in a discussion that isn't even about legality but morality. I hope we'll get to the point where people realise the importance of professional, traditional print outlets, and see that they can obviously not continue to exist without our willingness to spend some money. I'm rather pessimistic on the former ("yeah I browse the NYT on the loo but it's not worth anything and 15 years ago they were wrong about Iraq WMD and I rather read bloggers from all sides of the spectrum and do the synthesis myself and even learn about Pizzagate and no I don't have a problem with run-on sentences").
The media still has to do its part, as well. I regularly do a shallow read of 10 to 15 publications. I'll happily spend 200$ per year for the privilege, but I haven't found anyone willing to take my money. I'm not going to pay that amount for a single publication as my parents have done over decades.
I'm spending 10$/mo on music now. Before, I had bought maybe two CDs in my entire life. But so far, publishing is blocking "streaming" to protect "CD sales".
It would be interesting to try an ad-blocking program that has an exception: if this article has been written by the journalist who did all the work(or something close to that) , he can show me ads.