Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Online pay walls "a bad idea"

The editor of the Guardian, one of the UK's leading newspapers and online news sites, claims the folks at the New York Times have got it all wrong if they think they can make money by charging readers to visit their website. Alan Rusbridger called pay walls "a hunch" and warned that they could drive readers away.

If you erect a universal pay wall around your content then it follows you are turning away from a world of openly shared content. Again, there may be sound business reasons for doing this, but editorially it is about the most fundamental statement anyone could make about how newspapers see themselves in relation to the newly-shaped world.
Instead, the Guardian editor told an audience of academics and journalists in London that media should focus on doing good journalism. "If you think about journalism, not business models, you can become rather excited about the future. If you only think about business models you can scare yourself into total paralysis." Sound familiar? "If you build it, they will come," was the mantra of Field of Dreams.

A former Slate staffer agrees that pay walls are a bad idea and says the media have it all backward in their search for a viable business model. "Since the web is built on links and open access, barring visitors for any reason is a big deal," writes Scott Rosenberg on the PBS website Media Shift. According to Rosenberg, trying to preserve the business model of Old Media on the Internet is asking the wrong question.

The newsrooms of today acquired their size and shape and structure thanks to the business model that supported institutions of their size. The world has changed; that model is vanishing. We shouldn't be asking "What sort of business can support a newsroom online?" The question is, "What's the best kind of newsroom that the online business can support?"

1 comment:

  1. I think it's smart to look at the online "problem" with a different perspective. The growth of online news isn't evil, it's just providing the newspapers with a challenge. If handled correctly, newspapers, online sites, and most importantly, the readers, all come out ahead.