Published on February 18th, 2013 | by Alex Veeneman0
AUDIO: The Flyer’s Media: Paywalls Are the Future of Online Journalism
Photo provided by flickr user dennis crowley.
Alex Veeneman, Opinions Editor
In the mid-1990s, The Wall Street Journal set a precedent in journalism. It became the first newspaper in the United States to implement a paywall, where users are charged for most content at a certain rate.
Over a decade later, the trend began to catch on, as users shift to online and mobile consumption for news, and announcements had become frequent with major newspapers announcing that they would go ahead with a paywall model.
The Washington Post, just before Christmas, is said to become the latest. The Wall Street Journal reported in December that the Post was due to develop a paywall to be available sometime this year.
Yet, there is speculation at the Post, as its chief executive Don Graham has been skeptical surrounding the idea.
“We are obviously looking at paywalls of every type,” Graham said, according to the Journal, in remarks at an investor conference. “But the reason we haven’t adopted them yet is that we haven’t found one that actually adds profits immediately. But we’re going to continue to study every model of paywall and think about that, as well as thinking about keeping it free.”
The Post’s publisher, Katharine Weymouth, had not indicated any plans for a paywall when she met with staff in December to discuss the matter.
“We continue to look at it, we are open to it,” Weymouth said, according to a report in the Post. “We have not made the decision to do it.”
A representative for the Post said that the plans for a paywall remained unconfirmed.
If the Post goes ahead with the paywall, it would join The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, which have recently implemented similar measures. The Times has 566,000 digital subscribers as of the end of the third quarter last year, while the Tribune has 500,000 digital subscribers through its digitalPLUS program, which started last November.
The subject of the paywall has been one that has dominated discussions in newspapers and indeed the whole of journalism, from what will drive traffic and interest to the sustainability of newspapers as a whole.
For college students, the paywall discussions signal a new consumption trend, with questions on whether students would pay for content online.
Sarah Bauer of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, an organization that represents metro and suburban newspapers in the state, said that although paywalls have not been the norm for online journalism yet, they will be a part of its future, as iTunes had been with the world of music. Yet, Bauer adds, the audiences with publications are very much dependent on the publication.
Paywalls have very much become a part of the debate into the future of online journalism, and will likely play a part in the future of raising revenue in an age where advertising faces a decline. But most notably, for Lewis students and students at universities across the country, they should be ready to pay for content, because things that have been free do cost money, whether we like it or not.