Should Newspapers Charge for Content Online?

Friday, July 16, 2010


Should newspapers put up paywalls? Pro-paywallers, like Rupert Murdoch, say absolutely! Newspapers must charge for costly reporting in order to survive! Anti-paywallers argue that papers can't afford to shut out the open and free web. Alan Murray of the (paywall-ed) Wall Street Journal and Alan Rusbridger, editor of the (free) Guardian, discuss.

Comments [9]

Chris from New Hampshire

Paywalls kill website traffic. Decreased website traffic is unattractive to advertisers. The paywall may seem necessary to many publications, but it seems to me to be an old world way of thinking about how media is consumed.

The key is that the internet destroyed the economics of publishing, completely and irrevocably. Whereas printing presses were once incredibly expensive to set up, the cost of publishing on the internet keeps falling asymptotically towards zero. This removes both the competitive advantage and the positive returns to scale print publishers once enjoyed. However, even if society no longer needs newspapers, we still need journalism — and in that seed still lies promise for publishers who can figure out how to come out kicking on the other side of this digital revolution.” - Clay Shirky

Dec. 16 2010 09:57 AM
Raj Mehta from Austin, Texas

We are asking the wrong questions here ... whether readers should pay for news, and whether news is a public service and hence should be free? The real issues have been ignored.

I am reminded of something a mendicant once said, "Water is free everywhere, yet many of us pay for water (see" Why?

The real issue is merchandizing of news ... how is it packaged, at what price, when and has a brand of high perceived value been established, is the payment method easy to use?

If we learn from the experience of ecommerce where businesses are build and lost on the basis of conversion, getting the user to pay for something is more involved than the underlying value of the content.

Paywalls can work if they are designed properly. To read more, check out my blog at

Sep. 04 2010 02:52 PM
Dan Reznick from San Diego, Calif.

I have no problem with paying a nominal subscription charge of, say, $1 per month. Why they consider charging print rates is beyond me. Materials cost have been eliminated, and given the vast audience available it would seem easier to get several million $1 subscribers than it would be to attract a thousand $20 ones.

Jul. 22 2010 03:57 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

What Chascates wrote is what I have seen here. Self-cannibalism is the process these companies and corporations have done and given no heed to the service of the public.

Recall when they all lamented so that they had so few reporters who understood economics and finance? Why would that be?

Jul. 20 2010 10:06 PM
david smith from Seattle Wa

I would pay for online newspaper if it was worth buying. Most of what I see is just repeated from the NYTimes or WaPo with too much of a liberal slant. I have yet to see any honest assessment of Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid because they are liberal icons. The present day journalists for the most part are just to liberal and don't really report the news anymore.

Jul. 20 2010 07:12 AM
Richard from Dubai

...and "content delivery to the masses" sounds amazingly Orwellian. Newspapers will survive because bloggers are no more journalists that I would be a surgeon if I bought a scalpel.

Jul. 18 2010 11:34 PM
Richard from Dubai

As soon as someone writes "monetizing," I know there is a flaw in their thinking about the purpose of journalism. It's ~ to "branding" educational institutions. These are vital public services, coincidentally and increasingly businesses because the high previous ROI attracted people like Murdoch. Not everything needs to be "run like a business."

Jul. 18 2010 11:31 PM
tara gentile from Wyomissing, PA

While I agree with the first commenter on there being a larger problem with the way the "media" is consumed in this country, I do think that paywalling could be one method of monetizing journalism to maintain quality.

What struck me the most about this piece was how similar the problems faced by traditional media & bloggers are. Bloggers can no longer hope to earn full-time income from AdSense & affiliate marketing - instead, they are looking to diversify their monetization to create a sustainable business model. This includes a paywall-like strategy of putting the best, most actionable content in paid ebooks.

Also, bloggers can no longer hope to set themselves apart from the vast blogosphere by covering a wide range of topics - just as the guest suggested traditional local newspapers could no longer do. Both blogs & traditional media need to find a niche where they can succeed, with content that provides great value to the consumer.

Perhaps bloggers & traditional media aren't so at odds afterall? Maybe we need to see how we can work together & learn from each other for the betterment of content delivery to the masses.

Tara Gentile

Jul. 18 2010 12:41 PM
chascates from Austin, Tx

Having worked in the composing room of a mid-sized daily I realize that good, in-depth journalism requires money. I just don't think money from any paywall will be used for that purpose. Instead, that income and any other will be used to boost the earnings report and thus the stock of any publicly traded media outlet. Anyone at corporate HQ will talk about their solemn responsibility and the public trust but their own fortunes rise and fall with quarterly reports.
And when a large percentage of Americans believe only Fox News and Sarah Palin's Facebook rants give them the true facts I think the problem goes beyond the financial welfare of traditional media outlets.

Jul. 17 2010 12:22 AM

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