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Bill Bennett


Online subscriptions: the second digital divide

Google and Facebook control almost all the world’s online advertising revenue. To get around this, news organisations and other online media use paywalls and subscriptions.

It makes perfect sense when there’s precious little advertising revenue to pay wages and other bills. Producing media costs money.

As Tom Foremski explains at ZDNet, this creates a new digital divide.

He writes: “The digital divide is about to get worse with the rise of subscription-based news media because of the failure of advertising to provide revenues for a sustainable business model.”

It’s another reason to not like Facebook. Another reason to fear Google.

Newspapers are not the only examples. Subscriptions, not advertising, pays for Video and sports streaming services. Pay-per-view is not new, but there is now more of it.

Here, the National Business Review hides all stories behind a paywall. The New Zealand Herald keeps the best stories for subscribers. They are not alone.

A second digital divide

As an upshot, low income people who manage to jump the first digital divide and get online, come up against a second divide. Subscription costs often shut them out from the best online content.

Free media has stepped in to fill the gap left by newspapers. Some free sites are good. the Guardian and RNZ both run excellent free news sites.

Some free media is darker. People with a hidden agenda and money to spend can publish plausible looking news. Although plausibility isn’t essential here. Manipulators have free run to bombard readers with lies and misleading information.


Look up an international story on Google News. You’ll find links to certain sites that are openly or not so openly propaganda sites. There are Russian and Chinese examples. In some cases intelligence agencies pay the bills.

Other free news services might push extremist ideologies or misinformation. Lies are common.

People who buy subscriptions end up better informed. They can make better choices. They may even live better, healthier, even happier lives than the poor souls on the wrong side of the second digital divide.



7 thoughts on “Online subscriptions: the second digital divide

  1. Putting the words “NZ Herald” and “best online content” in the same sentence is an oxymoron!!

    The standard of journalism has declined severely since the dawn of the internet (you’re the exception that proves the rule, Bill 😊 )

    Journalists working for supposedly open news media organisations seem to have forgotten or failed to realise that they are there to report the facts, not their interpreted spin on what they see as the salient information. Tell me the truth and let me draw my own conclusions, don’t dumb it down and tell me what I should think!

    It’s no wonder that there’s so much anger and bitterness around the world these days with journalists pushing their agenda…

    1. So, I’m not poor and I have no newspaper subscription. There is enough free news from the BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. to keep me informed.

      I do agree that the “… standard of journalism has declined severely since the dawn of the internet.”. and that “..t there’s so much anger and bitterness around the world these days with journalists pushing their agenda”.

  2. I’m wondering why people are things such as this happen. Capitalism is, after all, designed to produce these results – the haves and the have-nots. The encroaching monopoly/duopoly of Google and Facebook are also a direct result of capitalism.

    If we truly want to address this growing information divide then the only option is more socialism. In this case a state funded news organisation that does not have advertising on it at all while only ever telling the truth. The latter means that it would have to exclude opinions as most opinions aren’t worth the hot-air that they’re made from.

    I’m pretty sure that all the capitalist entities would immediately state gushing forth about subsidies if such an entity came about. Of course, they’d be lying as state funded entities are not subsidised – the people are paying for them. Only private entities that receive government funding (in any way, shape or form) can be considered as being subsidised.

  3. If I understand your argument, “Journalist and newspaper have a right to revenue and Google and Facebook took that away”. So did Uber and Lyft take away the livelihood of taxi services or did they provide income for people who didn’t before?

    1. “Journalist and newspaper have a right to revenue and Google and Facebook took that away”

      Where does my story say or imply that anyone has a right to advertising revenue?

      The revenue that previously paid for journalism has gone. As far as this story is concerned, it doesn’t really matter where it has gone. That’s not the point.

      So, understandably, publishers are looking for new revenue sources. The new sources mean poorer people no longer have access to those sites.

      Uber, Lyft and taxi companies don’t come into it.


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