Whether or not newspapers should charge for online content is an ongoing and exceedingly heated debate. As more and more publications contemplate their own obituaries due to lack of revenue, charging for online content looks more and more promising according to research done by the University of Southern California.
It seems clear: the future of newspapers is online, and printed newspapers appear to be headed toward extinction, says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Printed newspapers make less than they used to, but they’re still far more profitable than news websites. Getting news online is easy, fast, and in most cases, free. However, due to increasing numbers of online readers, the revenue from advertisements can no longer cover the costs of printing newspapers, so printed publications have no choice but to charge online readers or fear turning off the presses for good. Social networking consultant Ross Dawson comments on whether charging for online content will be successful. Charging for online newspapers may bring revenue back into the professional world of journalism, says Dawson.
As stated in this article by Richard Pérez-Peña for The New York Times, original plans for The New York Times to rely on online advertising for revenue has severely failed. Executives have devised a plan that will have little impact on occasional browsers of online content but will fish out the most devoted readers. Many smaller publications are following suit. Joseph Tartakoff states in his article for paidContent.org that, “some small- and medium-circulation papers are coming up with their own formulas to get readers to pony up for access to their websites.” In his article, Tartakoff summarizes the results of several small and medium publications charging for online content.
Many newspapers have already made the switch to charging for online content. Other publications are still dabbling with the idea. Newspapers are in a tough situation as they try to stay alive and pay their staff or risk staying loyal to the needs of their readers and falling to the wayside forever.
By: Rachel Minske