Paywalled news will lose vital student numbers

Summary:News organisations putting breaking news behind a paywall will lose out on customers - more so the younger generation who fill bypass this and find the same information elsewhere, but for free.

Many newspaper organisations which provide online news services to cover the minute-by-minute breaking news around the world are turning to the paywall: a free preview but to access the content you want see, you have to pay either per article or through a subscription.

It's almost boiled down the newspaper industry into a seedy affair with online pornography; "pay per view" and "here's a sneak preview, now pay and you can see the full thing". And it looks desperate, because the news organisations indeed are desperate.

But nowadays students and the wider younger population either don't seem interested in the news overall, or when they do they access it online but will not pay for it.

In England, we have the BBC, a public sector organisation which is provided for and by the tax payer. As a result as such, it must remain impartial, accountable, fair and unbiased, and at value for money. With this, the BBC will never charge its online readers money to access their content.

As I recently discovered, those reading from outside the UK will be referred to a slightly different version of the site which is supported by advertisements, which would not normally be seen by tax-paying UK citizens. It's a model which works, but it's a rare opportunity to be taken or replicated elsewhere.

So why would anyone go anywhere else for news which is accurate, unbiased, fair and politically impartial, and that it's free and highly accessible from the web, interactive TV services, mobile, email and text messages?

What's the point in going elsewhere? Unless you want gossip or opinion (and more often than not it's strong opinion and politically and culturally defamatory) then you will just go to the nearest free site and access the information or fix that you want.

It's easy enough and arrogant enough to say, "think about the students" as if we are the most important people on the planet. But in fact it is the entire younger generation these people need to focus on. Instead of attempting to broaden their readership and include as many as they can outside the realms of their political persuasions, they are diving into the paywall experience to generate instant revenue.

If a younger person thinks they can access something for free or at a significantly discounted price elsewhere, then it will seek and fulfill that objective. One could argue this is the single reason for illegally downloading content; it appears free and it is far more accessible than any other distribution point.

The only people that will get hurt are the news organisations. The news will continue to carry on, and by putting up the paywall they have washed their hands of a great deal of their audience and they will crumble.

Would you sign up for a paywalled service, or would you simply find the news for free elsewhere?

Topics: Browser

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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