Why paywalls won't help most big newspapers

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15 Responses to “Why paywalls won't help most big newspapers”

  1. jameswdcrawford says:

    In the UK we had a very high profile example of a paywall being introduced. The move by Johnston Press and this post inspired me to write this: http://www.jamescrawford.org.uk/when-paywalls-work-in-publishing/media

  2. Tzctlp says:

    Ideas being free is not fluff, it is reality.

    That is way companies lobby governments have to put walls around them (copyrights, patents, whatever) or do some of the dirty work themselves (paywalls) in order to subvert the natural order of things.

    It may be commercially sensible to do so, but the damage that it is doing to the dissemination of culture and information is incalculable .

    • hello whirled says:

      Tzctlp argues that patent law and copyright cause “incalculable” damage to the “dissemination of culture” (whatever that means).

      Tzctlp, copyrights and patents –and variations on them, like Creative Commons– are tools designed to protect creative people. The principle is honorable and worth strongly defending: The principle is that I should be able to be compensated for my intellectual labor, just as someone else should expect to be compensated for their manual labor.

      Yes, these tools can be abused, just like any human tool. A hammer can build a house or be a weapon. It’s our challenge to be sophisticated, and wise, in our use of tools, Tzctlp.

  3. hobomike says:

    how about paying al a carte, by article? Or by section? Here’s another idea: It’s well known that the most profitable “news” sites are for sports. So why not have sports fans subsidize real news? :-)

    • Ted8305 says:

      That’s not a bad idea, hobomike. World and national news is available through plenty of free channels. Where I’m feeling the hurt is LOCAL news.

      Maybe if the local paper stopped paying to syndicate state and national stories, they’d save money? I don’t need yet another source telling me the same info that’s all over the net. I want LOCAL news, and I’m not willing to pay $10 a month for a rag that’s 50% shit from AP and Reuters that I already know, 25% fluff, and 25% meaningful local reporting.

      But I would pay $2.50 a month for just the insightful local reporting, without all the extra junk.

  4. AGC says:

    Pay to post comments.

    This will generate revenue for newspapers. If a credit card is being used there is a way of identifying people.

    There are a couple of major newspapers serving the city I live in. I swear that the comment sections are filled in by staffers in political parties.

    Some newspapers limit what stories you can comment on. Now there should be three categories;
    i)stories that you are free to comment on;
    ii)stories that would receive too many bad comments so no public comment section is available;
    iii)a comment section that you have to pay to post to.

  5. adent1066 says:

    The local rag in my area, Newsday, just switched over to a paywall. They are charging $5/week to access the website. It would be cheaper to subscribe to the actual paper, except that the best use for the paper is to line my parakeet’s cage. It is just a collection of AP newsfeeds anyway, so I’ll just go to any of a million other sites for the same coverage.

  6. octopod says:

    what did consumer surveys say about delivering news as a pdf? it’s rly something I wouldn’t want.

  7. Rob Beschizza says:

    The plain text of each page is available to subscribers, IIRC. It’s a small paper so PDF wasn’t too troublesome, and we used a custom distiller job to keep file sizes down. Also, we made each page’s PDF individually available from a plain html index, a tiny usability thing that radically improves the PDF experience.

    But we always knew it wasn’t perfect, that it was a substitute for real HTML.

    • octopod says:

      thanks, usability and searchability was my concern. some things behind a paywall make sense to me, nature/acm/whatever journals for instance, but can’t see where to set a price for local news for it to make any sense from the consumers pov vs a print edition, where grandma can cut out some obituary or an article for her scrapbook.

  8. Anonymous says:

    It would work for the rag I’m at only if our competition was to succumb. The saving grace of our print version is that we can’t post a lot of pictures because they eat up space. I live in a sports crazed, beauty pageant nut county. It doesn’t hurt to have ace photographers and good print quality.

  9. dancentury says:

    Interesting. What’s to stop Google from buying stories from AP or UPI and putting them up for free, like Breitbart does?

    And then tapping YouTube for video, Flickr (Yahoo owned, but what the heck) for photos, and Twitter for live information?

    What content does Murdoch have that’s intriguing enough to get people to pay? Wall Street Journal articles, Glen Beck rants, Family Guy clips, and photos of Palin in jogging outfits?

    Google will get its way.

  10. hello whirled says:

    Round of applause.

    Yup information “wants to be free,” but reporters still need to put food in their pieholes, which requires pies — whoops meant to say it requires PAYCHECKS. Which is why news providers need to experiment with a mix of free and subscriptions and paywalls and [insert other revenue ideas here].

    The Hobbes situation shows why one size doesn’t fit all. A simple, important thing to remember when debating the transformation of the Fourth Estate.

  11. phoulx says:

    Nice to see something that isn’t the typical hyperbole fallacy that overwhelms this place. Too often I see the Utopian hippy “Everything is free” fluff which has yet to work IRL. This story shows there are actually different levels of ‘free’ and ‘success’.

    • Teresa Nielsen Hayden says:

      Phoulx, I’ve seen as many or more unrealistic business plans come out of the conservative side of the old culture wars as I’ve seen come out of the more utopian end of things. The most recent Wall Street bailouts would pay for one hell of a lot of start-ups.

      You know what I don’t see a lot of? Hippies. Why not blame Whigs or Muggletonians? It would make about as much sense.

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