The role of paywalls in accessing news
An increasing number of media outlets (big and small), have adopted the business model of digital paywalls. Anyone wanting to access information has to pay or sign up for a monthly subscription. While there are many reasons as to why media outlets have made this shift, the main question that remains is – how much damage these paywalls are doing?
Paywalls are disrupting the way that information is made available to the general public. In addition, these restrictions are also giving rise to and making it easier for alternative or “fake news” to circulate around more freely.
But news outlets are resorting to the model of paywalls out of urgent need.
According to an article by Harvard Business School, a Pew Research Center study showed “the once-profitable newspaper industry has endured upheaval due to changing technologies and difficulties securing capital … Growth in digital advertising revenue has failed to offset the decline in print advertising, resulting in a hemorrhaging of newsroom jobs across the country.”
The decision to implement paywalls does not alone come from the business department of newspapers. Instead, it is the joint decision of business department and presidents and other famous outlets to implement paywalls. They say, “their brand’s print distribution is not enough to keep the outlet alive and running. It is not paying the wages of the workers that are out day and night bringing the breaking news to our fingertips.”
While paywalls are generating revenue for news outlets, are they making it harder for people to access information? A Reuters report from 2017 asked, “Why is that only a minority pay for online news?”
Paywalls are forcing people to simply stick to one media outlet and restricting many from looking at a variety of sources.
Additionally, not only does this heavily impact the way that people consume news, but also the way news outlets create news.
The goal of paywalls is to help keep media outlets afloat, but what about informing the public? The people deserve to know the whole truth. If traditional media is not where people are going to get their news, they will find it in other spaces that may or may not offer an accurate picture. Are news outlets and journalists willing to risk that?
Putting a price on public information and the truth has and will continue to fundamentally change what is known and how it is known. At the end of the day, all there is are words.