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NEWS WEBSITE PAYWALLS: Business Model vs. Social Media?

I just ran into the ugly paywall at 2 newspapers when trying to do research for a story.

It used to be, in the day of the typewriter, you could go to the local or college library and pull all the clips, papers, periodicals, microfiche, etc. you needed to research a story – for free.

Now with the Internet and the new paywalls that news and content providers are putting up, you’ll have to pay for it. Seems kinda crazy, huh?

Paywalls will cause a lot of trouble for news aggregators; but, what about writers working on stories and social media users that want to share a story with their followers or friends (from Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc.)?

Doesn’t that cut down on traffic to a news site and therefore fresh eyeballs to advertisers?

Will every “share” have to be paid for if someone clicks on the link?

I get the business model problem for news producers.  Content is expensive to get and produce. They don’t want to give it away for free.

But I don’t get how a paywall fits in with what happens on social networking today where it’s a free-for-all of content sharing.

Sharing “out” from a news site is very understandable. The subscriber pays to be there and shares what he or she finds out with their networks.  It’s sharing “in” to a news site that causes a problem in my mind.  The followers and friends that click the link will then have to pay – typically  a monthly subscription?  Who would do that?

There are over 1,400 news outlets producing content in the U.S.  Twenty percent are expected to have paywalls by the end of this year.  Warren Buffett just bought dozens of papers and he believes in paywalls.

If you do a lot of sharing and exploring today, you probably won’t be doing it in the future.  Too expensive.   Imagine having to whip out your credit card every time you click a link from a friend.

Seems like there will be a clash between news producers and social media users.

More questions than answers…  What do you think?


Filed under: Content Marketing, Future Vision, Internet, Micro Blog (Twitter), Publishing, , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Michael, very interesting post. One thing to remember: Warren Buffet isn’t always right. Most of the time. But not always. News outlets that charge for their content are going to have be very, very good — WSJ, NYT good — or else rethink their model. Content includes branding, reputation and credibility for the publisher. These diminish if the content can’t be shared. Diane is right, it’s a tough one.

  2. Diane Hughes says:

    A very timely piece. I think that most paywall/subscriber models will allow individual visitors a certain number of views/stories before being asked to pay, so that would allow for some free access via social media links. Still, it’s a sticky problem with no good answers. The old model must change, but developing a new one is no easy task.

    • Thanks Diane for your comment. You get some free ones in most cases, and can see more stories by using a different browser or clear your cache. But I think there is an unanswered clash between the social networks of sharing and the publishers that block sharing trying to make money as they get more eyes on their content. Tough problem. I think the Wall Street Journal has it right. First they have first class content that many want and few others produce. Then they layer content and how much a user pays for each layer. The most important factor is that they have the best and most credible content compared to other publishers.

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R. Michael Brown
Marketing Consultant, Public Relations Consultant, Freelance Writer: West Palm Beach, Florida

"I help organizations increase sales, and pump up the value of their brand, using media, for the lowest cost per customer."

Digital Marketing and Public Relations consultant, writer, and producer with over 20 years experience launching brands like DiVosta Homes, IBM Multimedia, Nextel, Motorola business and government sector, and SunFest Jazz Festival.

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