Quality content is worth paying for

Paywalls are essential to keep journalism alive

Maya Palavali, Staff Cartoonist

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On April 29, 1996, The Wall Street Journal launched its official online presence. By August, the publication implemented the first “paywall” for subscribers with a free trial period.

Nearly seven years later, the paywall had increased in popularity for news publications worldwide. But, it is not because of the need to restrict news to the public. The fact that the paywall has publications’ begrudging acceptance shows the reason stems from the need for money.

On Feb. 15, 2011, The Dallas Morning News added the paywall to their online works. Jim Moroney, the CEO of the newspaper at the time, confided in his staff his wariness about the decision made. He warned his staff of the potential dangers that come with implementing a subscription service.

“I don’t think we can wait,” Moroney said. “The business has enough uncertainty around it.”

During the Future of Journalism hearing before the Subcommittee of Communications, Technology, and the Internet on May 26, 2009, Moroney predicted the potential negative effects associated with paywalls.

“If The Dallas Morning News today put up a paywall over its content, people would go to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram,” Moroney said.

There is no set way to create and implement a paywall. The hard paywall is what is usually visualized when talking about online restrictions. It only provides the article’s headline and a couple of sentences to entice the readers.

Rather than just the stereotypical blocking of content immediately with harsh wording, sites have developed user-friendly ways to provide a balance of information and restrict access. The most common one currently is metered access.

Metered access is self explanatory: the publication allows users to view a set number of articles per month before the free access is shut down. The freemium option also has the leeway of the metered access but rather than counting the number of site visits, freemium provides free access by type of content.

Publications know incorporating the latter options will lose financial revenue in some way. Though it is beneficial by getting more consumers to the news source, it is also a way for people to side step getting a subscription. It goes to show that news sources are not trying to restrict access purely for capital gain. They want you to have access as much as they need to get money.

Quality journalism can only come when it is funded. Without the paywall source of revenue, journalists will have to rely more on clickbait or less hard hitting topics to appease their audiences. The meaning of journalism is to present all opinions rather than a select few; it cannot be done if the journalists can’t get the information they need.

California State University Long Beach associate professor Reo Song and his co-authors, Doug Chung at Harvard University and Ho Kim at University of Missouri-St. Louis found from their research that renowned companies such as The New York Times had a relatively positive result.

“Good reputation and exclusivity of content are the main factors that drive the success of [the] digital paywall,” the study concludes. “Newspapers with less exclusive content, however, have experienced losses when they established paywalls.”

People believe the content behind the paywall needs to be worth it; but it always is. Despite what you may think, the journalists put their full effort into their work. Only allowing articles you feel are “good” is a faulty way to look at content consumption. Journalism is a worthy news source and needs to be valued as such. The revenue for the industry is rapidly declining and one of the ways to help keep journalism alive is through paywalls.

Buying a subscription does not mean the people sway what the journalists write about. There is no bias either way and paying journalists does not mean the people who give the money have the upper advantage with news.

Adding a paywall is not a slight on the public. It is not meant to deny access to information or exclude certain demographics from receiving articles. It simply is a way to keep journalism alive, providing what is needed to produce content. We need to keep the industry alive because it serves our communities. It represents us.

The job of giving us information is on journalists’ shoulders. We have the job to support the industry that serves us.

Follow Maya (@mvpalovalley) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.