The print mode of publishing has relied heavily on advertising in recent years; this reality makes it easy to understand the media industry’s reluctance to adopt technology-forward business strategies.
“The paper can sell advertising in the print edition at a much, much higher price per customer than it can for the online edition.” (Gillmor, 2011) Although most publications have regretfully embraced new media to a certain extent, it won’t change the inevitable sinking of old business models.
It will be interesting to see what transformations will occur in the online advertising arena in the coming years, as media institutions clamber to keep their newsrooms viable. Solid paywalls tend not to sit well with the average internet user; as with print copies, people like to ‘try’ before they commit to buying.
Personally I’m more likely to buy The Times in print (or any format for that matter) if I can flip through its pages and wait for a story to grab me. The Newsagents’ dirty looks, for spending too long hovering over one issue, may also help in the payment department though!
After speaking to friends and family, it appears opinions on paywalls are divided. In general, younger generations seem offended to have pay for something they can skim for free. While older generations, valuing depth and quality, support the industry by subscribing.
The difference in disposable income between these two groups could be one thing that separates their priorities.
Publications who introduce solid paywalls will have to think about their ageing member base at some point in the future especially considering the limited ‘share-ability’ of online content.
“Both, [WSJ and FT] have taken a scared and defensive approach to digital subscriptions, fearing that if their readers can get their content for free, then they won’t pay.” (Salmon, 2011)
However in the next decade, developing countries will increasingly implement telecommunications infrastructure and online subscriptions will most likely be the way of the future.
“Newspapers had to be part of this web, not simply “on” it.” (Busfield, 2010)
This is an awesome opportunity for journalists to get creative and broaden their skill base. Rather than being a faceless name behind a desk somewhere, journalists could perhaps enjoy the sort of exposure as chefs now have after shows like Master Chef and My Kitchen rules.
“It’s a trend about how people are expressing themselves, about how societies will choose to organize themselves, about a new democracy of ideas and information, about changing notions of authority, about the releasing of individual creativity, about resisting the people who want to close down free speech.” (Busfield, 2010)
The trend towards an Open Web can only be an opportunity for long term growth within our media industries. With the possibility of round the world reach, I think the substance and content of major publications will only get better.
The consumers who are now being asked to pay for online subscriptions can demand better quality journalism, organisation of ideas and more visual aids/ arts to accompany them.
The Guardians editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger says “Universal charging for newspaper content on the internet would remove the industry from a digital revolution which is allowing news organizations to engage with their readers more than ever before.” (Busfield, 2010)
Dan Gillmor (2011) ‘The New York Times paywall: the faint smell of success’, The Guardian, August 3, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/aug/03/new-york-times-paywall>
Salmon, Felix (2011) ‘How The New York Times Paywall is Working’, Wired, August 14, <http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/08/new-york-times-paywall/>
Busfield, Steve (2010) ‘Guardian editor hits back at paywalls’, The Guardian, January 25, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/jan/25/guardian-editor-paywalls>