There’s no such thing as a free story

In a daring move, News Limited paper The Australian is going to begin charging for some online content as of this month or the next.

There are to be three weekly packages offered, including:

$2.95 – Website, apps and mobile subscription

$4.50 – Digital + Saturday paper subscription

$7.95 – Digital + Daily paper subscription

There will still be a host of content available to the stumble-upon viewer, however it seems that premium or exclusive content will likely be restricted by a paywall.

The Australian is not the first publication to try such a system as the Australian Financial Review have tried (with little success) to restrict their services to subscribing customers. The New York Times have had some degree of success in the United States, though the publication is generally regarded as one of the finest in the world and has not had to convince its audience of its inherent quality.

Newspaper circulation has been falling noticeably and the news isn’t much better for papers in the United States, so is the system is an attempt to win back lost revenue by meeting the consumers online – where we are increasingly taking in most of our news.

Unfortunately for publications like The Australian, the move for an online payment scheme may have come at the most challenging time as it now must battle a social media revolution which stands for the opposite ideals of news-for-profit.

Social networking sites are about sharing content and creating a community of ideas. Unfortunately for news organisations, it appears that the sentiment among social media users is that information, at least at a basic level, belongs to everybody and should not be withheld for profit.

This revolution is not necessarily sudden, either. The Open Culture movement has long stood for the free exchange of information and has now found a voice through online outlets. The rise of new forms of ownership such as Creative Commons have further undermined the idea that a company or person can have control over whether information is spread.

Newspaper Extinction Timeline

Additionally, there is no telling as to whether this paywall will be easily hackable, or even simply copied by someone with a membership and reposted elsewhere.

On the other hand, it is a reality that business need to make money. To produce outstanding multimedia content, outlets need to invest a significant amount of time and resources that must be paid for somehow. Time will tell if The Australian’s online readers stay on board or jump ship.

What kind of quality can the average pundit expect if budgets are severely cut? Surely not the high standards that are expected across the board today.

Here’s something interesting for readers to think about: Do you see journalism as more of a business or a responsibility?

It’s clear that there are some elements of both involved in journalism, but one of them has to take priority.

The Australian has taken a stand and is trying to protect its profits to keep their standards the same, but should the media – whose job it is to keep our politicians and industries accountable – really be able to withhold potentially crucial information to a voting public?

P.S. Enjoy clicking on these links for free while you still can!

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