Why the newspapers should be busting down the paywall

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The traditional newspaper business model has collapsed in spectacular style.

In an earlier blog, ‘What to do when your business is eating a massive shit sandwich‘, I touched on the fact that print media, specifically newspapers, failed to acknowledge the simple fact that they were delivering a service to customers, rather than an advertising product. And the way in which we use this service has changed dramatically in a few short years.

I’d like to offer a brief outline of the approach adopted by traditional newspaper outlets in this digital era.

Traditional Media StrategyNewspapers are aware that traditional advertising spend is shrinking, as is traditional readership. They publish content online in order to remain relevant, but erect a paywall to prevent us from getting content for free.

As print advertising spend continues to decline, and the money spent on digital advertising is not yet enough to fill the gap, many publications rely on subscriptions to stay afloat. Or the paywall.

In an age when we are used to getting information online quickly and free of charge, it annoys me no end when I want to read an article and am faced with that damn paywall. So what do I do? What do you do? I find another source online. Do you pay for the subscription?

There has to be another way. I suggest that news publications look to new media for a fresh model; get creative and seek out passive income streams.

Rather than restrict our access to the news with a demand for money, why don’t they encourage us to click on their site for the best news coverage? Present us with banner ads, I don’t care. They could include affiliate links within their copy as long as they take care not to impact the quality of the content. Obviously, if they do this, we’ll go elsewhere.

If I value the newspaper site I might even subscribe to an email newsletter which delivers a basic snapshot of the day’s news. Alternatively, I would be happy to follow them on social media for regular updates. Think about it; when you wake up and grab your mobile phone, are you rushing to check out a website? I doubt it. I bet you’re heading straight to Facebook or Twitter, or checking your emails.

The more innovative media moguls may even consider crowdsourcing to establish a specific segment of their content. They could consider a cadetship for journalists which begins with online training; another potential source of income and a great way to check out and engage with emerging talent.

Mainstream newspapers have a lot to learn from smaller industries whose limited budgets force them to get creative in the online space. At this stage, the paywall strategy adopted by some publications seems short-sighted; attempting to adapt to a new era using outdated methods. There are other ways to profit from the news. They just have to look for them.

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