Pay-Walls around news is a Path to Failure

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Mass media newspapers

Mass media

THUNDER BAY – Editorial – There is a shift happening in the news business. That move is toward starting to charge readers for news on various news sites across the Internet.

Pay-Walls around news is a path to failure. At least in my opinion.

In Canada, Postmedia Network Inc. – which operates the National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Province, and the Vancouver Sun – will all start capping the number of articles that readers can access online for free.

In Thunder Bay, the Globe and Mail newspaper, will end daily paper delivery and will not be available for sale soon.

It is a sign of shifting times. A further sign that the newsprint world is continuing to shift.

Decades ago, in Thunder Bay when our family moved here, my dad was told ‘get the local paper for local news, and the Globe and Mail for national and international news and perspective’.

Today, news is available at the touch of a smart device.

Online news is replacing the printed newspaper.

Honestly and will all respect to the printed newspaper, in my opinion, by the time a story is printed and distributed, it is yesterday’s news. Likely the long-term survival of the newspaper will come with greater in-depth reporting on issues, and skillful analysis of the events and trends happening in today’s world. I digress.

The move by Postmedia Network Inc. is one that likely will fail. The move toward erecting ‘pay walls’ around news stories will be as successful as the ‘Iron Curtain’ or the Berlin Wall.

The ‘pay walls’ may appear to work for a while but the information will flow despite the attempts to restrict it. In the longer term they will drive news consumers to places where they can get the information they need for free. It is a short-sighted attempt at a solution to an opportunity.

The only way it might work would be if all the media outlets online around the world were to band together in agreement. That is very unlikely to happen.

Even if it did work, that kind of move would likely lead to a huge growth in independent media outlets that could, and would attract more readers.

The reality perhaps is that CNN, the BBC, and countless other media outlets have realized are that the goal is not just getting the news read, but owning what can be called ‘mind-share’. That is the ideal that people accessing information come to your outlet and you build traffic and advertising revenue follows where the readers are.

The ‘pay wall’ move is one that has been tried repeatedly by other media outlets. It results in a loss of visitors to the website of those who put up the walls. It also ignores the fact that one person copying and pasting a story to a social media site, or emailing it to their friends is likely to happen as well. At that point, people read the text, don’t visit the webpage and never see either the online ads, or the hard copy of the newspaper.

Increasing the ‘mind-share’ and encouraging more people to visit news and information websites is important. Companies attempting to restrict the free-flow of information are likely going to end up finding themselves left even further behind.

James Murray

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