You may have noticed them popping up everywhere lately. No, it’s not the spring weeds, it’s paywalls. What’s a paywall? It’s that prompt that comes up on a news website that tells you that you have reached your limit for articles and you must pay to see more. Plenty of newspapers have been doing it to claw back some money from those of us who have ditched the hard copy newspaper for news websites, but is it really worth it?
Notorious Australian newspapers such as The Courier Mail give you the catchy headline, but when you click through, you get a message that says, “You’ve read the last of the free articles available to you today. For unlimited access and other great member benefits, join today”. While it is only $2.50 a week for unlimited access on your smart devices, why should we be putting our money back into a news source that recently ran a headline that read “Monster Chef and the Shemale”? When they run articles with sensationalist headlines such as this, it can feel counterproductive to give them $2.50-$5 a week for the privilege of getting in our eye line.
The question still remains, should we pay for news on the internet, no matter what the source? I guess we tow the line on whether we want free, crappy content, or if we want quality, premium stories. There is a misconception that everything digital should be free, but behind the scenes there are journalists who need to be paid. This year it was announced that Australia’s most read printed newspaper The Sunday Telegraph sold under 500,000 copies for the first time, echoed in other states that has seen similar declines in readership. Readers are turning to digital copies of their favourite newspapers and have an expectation that content should be free of charge…but is that fair? In some way, we all pay for our news, whether it is literal i.e. spending a couple of dollars a day for a paper or figurative i.e. having lesser quality content. Do we need to swallow our pride and pay the fee, then? Is this an iTunes situation?
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The fact is, people are happy to pay for things that they value – we will pay for music if we like the artist. We will pay for movies if we like the actors. But will we pay for news? Do we have a right to information?
Another interesting side to the debate about paywalls is the journalism itself.
This week, an article was published in The Australian about Sharri Markson, their Media Editor. She went undercover to the University of Technology Sydney and the Uni of Sydney and sat in on journalism lectures. What she found was that universities are teaching “political pressure, fear-mongering, scandals and regulating media influence”. While what she discovered wasn’t exactly revolutionary, she raised some good points about journalism and how media articles are being written. “In another lecture, students were advised not to present both sides of the argument on climate change because, similar to the old tobacco debate of the past, there only was one side”, Markson said. With that considered, it doesn’t seem like a surprise that we don’t want to pay for digital editions of newspapers… we want facts, not opinions.
Photo credit: ABC
We want to know what you think – would you pay for news? Do you already? What do you like to read? Is the quality of journalism a factor in your choice? Tell us below!