Who Pays for Online News?

2 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar

Approximately two years ago, online newspapers tore down their walled gardens, exposing many years' worth of content, once available only to those who paid. Year 2007 was a simpler, gentler time.

Then the world exploded into economic crisis.

Now newspapers are rethinking their online strategies. Recently, iTunes announced that songs would no longer be sold with copying restrictions and that they would be available at various prices. The move may have surprised some, but it made a newspaper publisher or two scratch their heads and ponder if an iTunes for news could positively impact the news industry in ways that they desperately need.

David Carr of the New York Times, who recently wrote about such an idea, wasn't so much talking about a publishing repository a la Mochila, as he was about stacking up those garden walls.

Fighting Free with Free

The web publishing industry is of course worried about losing out to waning advertising sales and the pressure to perform while their print counterpart died. With citizen reporting and other types of "free" journalism continually threatening to replace traditional forms of news reporting, online newspapers had decided to fight back offering their information for free to readers. Minus a few sites that continue to charge, online newspaper require nothing of their readers in exchange for world, national and local news as well as commentary, online discussions and entertainment.

Learning Opportunities

Great Expectations

Now Carr asks, "Is there a way to reverse the broad expectation that information, including content assembled and produced by professionals, should be free?"

Perhaps if the web publishing industry made paying for content worth our while. Unlike music, paying for an article isn't likely to be as useful after it's read. Also, the industry struggles between getting noticed and making money. Writer's who publish their articles behind the iron wall are less likely to get noticed or acknowledged. Should newspapers offer more, such as online discussions or multimedia, interactive content along with their for-sale content? Or is it the responsibility of newspapers to make all news accessible no matter the self-inflicted cost?

There's no denying that successfully reporting the news takes money, yet the debate about who pays is  ongoing.

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