Monday, June 6, 2011

But Bloomberg says paywalls are "still a bad idea"

The media giant attacks paywalls again, especially for smaller papers.

Columnist Mathew Ingram writes that although limited paywalls seem to work at papers like the New York Times, "Those positives can be more than outweighted by the negatives of a paywall, particularly for smaller newspapers -- the main one being that a wall creates an opportunity for free competitors, of which there are a growing numbers."

I wanted to give you the full quote because that's the crux of the matter -- free competitors. News happenings will always be vulnerable to free competitors since they can rewrite (as I do), link (as I do), aggragate (as I do) news. What they cannot offer free is whatever original content is being offered -- reviews, comments, editorials, blogs, etc. They can offer their own original content. For example has several excellent columnists/bloggers. But it doesn't offer an article by Duane Dudek or Bob McGinn or Bob Wolfley. Original content behind paywalls works.

Yes, it's another story about paywalls. They're not going away.

I'm convinced that paywalls are the key to the future of good journalism. Yes, journalism will survive no matter what, it's just the form that it will take that needs to be defined. Yet another story today about paywalls points out that they cover a whole spectrum from the very tight paywall of the Times of London, which allows no access without a subscription (and there are a lot more like that, especially among smaller American newspapers) to the New York Times, which allows 20 free articles before you have to pay.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has another system that I think has great potential, charging for its expanded coverage of the Green Bay Packers. I've often wondered why newspapers don't make their news free, but charge for only features, reviews, etc. Whatever. The bottom line is that we are in a period of change, and journalism is changing along with it -- in some cases much faster than the rest of society.