Should news organizations keep their content behind paywalls?

Paywalls generate revenue that makes it possible for news organizations to operate. But because the media has a responsibility to keep citizens informed about important news and information, should content be available for the general public free of charge?

Here are three opinions from students in a Media and Democracy course at St. Bonaventure University.

Yasmine Lotfi:

You may wonder what are paywalls? Paywalls are a form monetization by newspaper sources in exchange for information or press.

At first, this may sound odd. Why would anybody pay $120 a year for a representation of current events, when they can source the same information from the click of a mouse?

Do paywalls increase the gap between consumers and gaining information they are entitled to?

The introduction of social media seems to streamline the gap created by monetization. The global governance of social media over information sharing has created a new form of freedom. How? By allowing consumers to communicate and receive updates directly from the person of interest.

For instance, the social media platform Twitter is commonly used by politicians to directly communicate with their supporters and the public. While in the case of news media, direct communication is limited to only what journalists decide to convey in their publications. In addition, consumers are granted access to updates only when the journalist can publish another update.

Although social media creates the complete freedom of access to any form of press, paywalls help increase the demand for news. Due to this, more consumers will choose to stay informed with trusted news sources.

Concerns over what is information across social media have also created fear among the public. However, recent studies have shown that social media is primarily consumed by individuals under the age of 35. Therefore, promoting an environment that monetizes free speech and media could drive future generations away from established news sources.

The introduction of paywalls as a monetization model for newspaper sources has created a gap between the people and access to press. Since the influx of social media platforms has opened countless new forms of direct communication, we fear paywalls may be the death of traditional news outlets.

Teddy Murphey:

News organizations should not restrict content under paywalls. Though the media is a for-profit industry, its primary goal should be to inform citizens.

The argument for paywalls is simple – news organizations must make money, and paywalls do just that. News organizations profit in different ways, but most comes from advertisements. A Pew Research Center study found that “more than two-thirds of all domestic news revenue is derived from advertising.” These organizations should continue to use advertisements as the main source of revenue, not paywalls. Yes, advertisements are annoying, but paywalls can have dangerous consequences.

Paywalls are wealth barriers to information. People who are hesitant or can’t afford to spend money on paywalls are restricted from pertinent news. One of the marvels of the modern world is instant access to seemingly infinite information via the internet. Paywalls ruin this.

Beyond being unfair, paywalls can create substrata of the population that are not informed. This can lead to misinformed voters, divide rich and poor, and likely cause other unpleasant situations.

The media’s responsibility to inform the public should outweigh its monetary priorities. Media containing ads can be consumed by everyone, so let’s stick to that.

Anshu Punreddy:

While paywalls are one method of generating revenue for new organizations, they are certainly not the only method of funding and are extremely isolating to certain members of the population.  

Requiring payment to access news, prevents people who are unable or unwilling to pay for the information from receiving important knowledge that the public needs to know. This may force viewers to consult less reliable sources to get the information they seek quickly and freely. 

Paywalls not only make information less accessible, but may have political ramifications as well.  

In today’s era of media coverage, viewers can cherry-pick what content they listen to from the vast array of niche sources. Conservatives can turn on FOX News and liberals can flip to MSNBC to nod along and affirm their beliefs. This is one of the major problems of modern media and has likely contributed to the politically polarized nature of our country. Paywalls only exacerbate this problem as consumers will pay for the organizations they already support instead of having free access to hear multiple or neutral perspectives on an issue.  

Categories: Jandoli Institute, Media, Politics

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