Paywalls Keep Us Out, Them In


Melissa’s post earlier today about newspapers building paywalls and charging much more for online access to their content than for print (or combo) subscriptions, evidently in order to eke out the life of their print products, reminded me of a post that Scott Rosenberg wrote the other week.

He makes the argument that paywalls are actually worse for the newspapers than they are for consumers. Sure, paywalls keep out those who wouldn’t pay, but they also lock the newspapers themselves out of contributing to the evolution of journalism online.

“I’d hate to see the further ghettoization of oldfashioned journalistic expertise on the Web,” he writes, continuing:

New models for news are sprouting on the Web every day. The journalism profession has a wealth of expertise and knowhow; the support of a dying industry’s paychecks will continue to dwindle, but the expertise can still be transmitted to a new generation of journalism ventures. That won’t happen if major media outlets wall themselves off from the Web. They will cut off not only their revenue but also their chance to influence the practice of journalism as it evolves online.

The alternative to “go ahead, build your wall” is for newspaper companies to accept that monopoly profits will not return and cannot be replaced.

As if that’ll happen!

Jeremy Hatch is a writer, musician, and professional bookseller leading a cheerful, aimless life in San Francisco. He is the Junior Literary Editor of the Rumpus and has a blog which he updates once in a while. More from this author →