It is common knowledge these days that newspaper print is declining as people switch to online alternatives. The rise in the smart phone/tablet market means that consumers now demand up to date, quality news at all hours of the day. What does this mean for the future of news?
Online news, providing rapid access to news content at any time of the day would seem great for consumers, but is it? With declining circulation and readership figures across the industry, the future looks bleak for printed newspapers. News brands’ financial prospects are under threat as revenue for online advertising is not being fully monetized yet. While news brands’ experiment with new business models to try and revive their finances outside of print, the dilution of content reduces the quality of the content published as journalists are being stretched thin. The expectation to write more articles in a shorter time period unsurprisingly impacts the quality of what is being published.
The Times and The Sunday Times were the first publishers to adopt the paywall model which is when the consumer pays a subscription fee to access the online content. This was considered suicidal at the time by some; however the model is beginning to flourish with the number of online subscribers increasing 45% between the end of March 2012 and March 2013, to 140,000. Many other rival publishers, including The Sun, have followed suit with the paywall model. Consumers’ paying for their news will ultimately benefit from higher quality service and content as newspapers are able to afford to keep quality journalism a high priority. And besides it is hardly a new phenomenon for consumer to be expected to pay for their news content. What is surprising is how long the idea has persisted that one group of people are paying for printed news, while another group receives the same content for free online.
It seems inevitable for news brands to implement some kind of ‘pay for online content’ system. Chris Blackhurst, content director of the Independent and Evening Standard, believes that it is only a matter of time until all online national newspaper content goes behind a paywall. Studies suggest that this transition will occur over the next three years while 27 per cent of media companies said that they expects significant shift in profit margin increase over the same three year period. There are still unanswered questions and much speculation looming over the pay wall for online content which we will report on as clarity unfolds.