Hit By a Paywall

When the media raises concerns about quality journalism it rarely talks about the standards of journalism but more how they will pay for it. What defines quality journalism is a blog for another day, however how we pay for it is an ongoing discussion.

In a few weeks’ time Australia’s largest locally circulated newspaper the Herald Sun will be charging for its premium content online. Based on a subscriber model, readers are offered packages from $2.95 to $8.95 a week for a ‘digital pass’ that allows them access across computers, tablets and smart phones.

It seems an obvious business model for a newspaper, it is just like paying to have your paper delivered to your door. Why then has News Limited struggled with this solution for so long? They’ve been doing this for years but just in a different medium.

Of course their biggest hurdle will be getting audiences to still demand their kind of news when they can no longer log on to it for free. Personally, I’m ok with paying for content on my i-pad, I am a subscriber to The Age. Yet where the ‘pay wall’ falls down for me is with the sharing of content.

Twitter has been a great social tool that allows emerging journalists to get their name out there. It has also been great for all journalists to share what they’ve written with followers and new audiences.

This week I experienced how Rupert’s new business model and the essence of social media, sharing, collide. I follow many well respected journalists on twitter and one openly shared his latest editorial on a very busy week in politics, however when I opened the link I was hit with a paywall.

Now I am literally killing time between appointments and as much as I would love to read what he wrote, I shut down and went elsewhere for an opinion on the week that was.

Now if he had a blog I could go there and have found it for free, but what paid journalist continues to blog on stuff they have already been paid to write?

Besides there is this unspoken rule about Twitter, you can use it for business but don’t make it obvious. Sure if I really want to read it I would pay for it, but it is hard to justify paying for an entire subscription just for one article.

Twitter and Facebook have become assets for journalists, especially freelance ones who are engaging audiences on new levels. Sharing creates conversation and allows work to be further passed on to audiences who don’t know you or your journalism.

Sadly Rupert’s Paywalls will stop that from happening with his journalists and while readers are the ones who will be losing out. Journalists themselves will suffer, in the short term at least.

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