In the changing landscape of publishing, print media being phased out by online sources and is needing to adjust and create new tools and techniques of publishing in order to profit in an industry they once dominated. An increase in free online resources has lead to a decline in peoples’ desire to pay for news (and specifically newspapers) and therefore created a need for these corporate businesses to find new modes of publishing in order to profit.
Many methods have been used in order to force people to pay for content including exclusively paying sites and sites which are purely funded by advertisement. However, the most successful and innovative strategy to date is the New York Times’ implementation of a ‘paywall’ strategy which allows users to view a specific amount of content before being asked to pay.
This strategy has been heavily criticized as it is possible to get around the paying by simply clicking any link on a blog or google search which takes you directly to the article (for example click this link about the recent ‘Kony’ controversy: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/world/africa/few-in-uganda-can-see-video-of-rebel-leader-kony.html). Thus, the whole website is accessible for free. But is this heavily criticized strategy appears to be working for the New York Times, with many other news media websites choosing to use this publishing tool as a method of profiteering (including the majority of News Ltd’s publications).
But why is this strategy so successful?
Salmon uses several anecdotes of how a ‘try before you buy’ method or how people’s gratitude for free content can lead them to pay can be a successful strategy for corporate businesses:
“What happened when the Indianapolis Museum of Art moved to a free-admission policy? Its paid membership increased by 3%. When the Minneapolis Institute of Arts did the same thing, paid membership increased by 33%.”
Equally, Gillmor points out that The New York Times charges more for their online subscription than a subscription to both their paper and the online version of the paper. This allows papers to charge more for hard copy advertising and in turn earn more profit.
Furthermore, Salmon points out that people are far less willing to pay for something they do not physically receive. He suggests this is why ‘pay only’ news websites will not succeed (he uses the example of WSJ, which has changed to a pay wall system since the article was written).
However, not everyone is convinced by this tactic. Editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, believes that a paywall will force the newspaper industry into oblivion and believes that other methods of payment should be trialled before settling on paywalls. These other methods are being trialled by papers such as the Sydney Morning Herald who are suggesting that they won’t in fact bring in a paywall system or need one to profit.
Thus, it is clear that the changing landscape of publishing has forced print media companies to use new tools and methods of creating profit from online journalism.