If my posts, comments, tweets and Facebook messages about newspaper paywalls seem contradictory, it is because there is a conflict.
For 30 years I earned a living from journalism. Most of the time I have worked on newspapers. I have a vested interest in the industry’s profitability.
Journalist’s want projects like Rupert Murdoch’s paywall at The Times to work. It means we get paid.
If Murdoch gets online readers to subscribe, journalism has a healthy future. We don’t need to find new careers.
That would be good.
Murdoch-style paywalls are unlikely to work for everyday newspapers.
“Information wants to be free” is nonsense. Information doesn’t want anything. Certain people want information to be free.
Many people aren’t willing to pay for online information, news or entertainment. If they are the overwhelming majority, then paywalled online newspapers will struggle to make money.
This is a problem because there isn’t enough advertising money to pay journalists to gather and write news.
Publishers can make more money from more obtrusive advertising, but that turns readers off.
So publishers are caught in a vice. At the moment, paywalls and subscriptions seem the best route out of this mess.
The only other answer is for quality online publishers to find a way to charge advertisers a premium when their marketing material appears alongside good editorial. The problem here is to get premium rates without selling the editorial integrity.