Pay wall or free-for-all? Guardian editor weighs in

The New York Times announced this week that they will start charging frequent users for their paper online. Good, I thought, who better to take the lead on this “monetizing” thing.

Then a friend sent along a lecture by the editor of the Guardian newspaper who, to my surprise, thinks erecting a “pay wall” is wrong. Now I’m reconsidering.

Alan Rusbridger

After all, we can now benefit from multiple platforms and ways of telling a story.

In the words of Alan Rusbridger:

“As an editor, I worry about how a universal pay wall would change the way we do our journalism. We have taken 10 or more years to learn how to tell stories in different media – i.e. not simply text and still pictures …

This, journalistically, is immensely challenging and rich. Journalists have never before been able to tell stories so effectively, bouncing off each other, linking to each other (as the most generous and open-minded do), linking out, citing sources, allowing response – harnessing the best qualities of text, print, data, sound and visual media. If ever there was a route to building audience, trust and relevance, it is by embracing all the capabilities of this new world, not walling yourself away from them.”

Isn’t this better journalism? I have officially changed my mind.

What do you think?


4 responses to “Pay wall or free-for-all? Guardian editor weighs in

  1. Hi Anita! First, YAY you for entering the blogosphere! I’ve bookmarked your site.
    Re: your point above, the one thing I’d say as a consumer is this: I wish all of us consumers would pay whatever subscription is needed to preclude relying on corporate advertising. I like to think (am I naive?) that this would result in better funded, and more neutrally funded, journalism. Thoughts?

  2. Erin Anne Beirne

    I console myself with this: If this were an easy topic, amazing new business models would have already been implemented from local papers to the NYT!

    Maybe extending the TV-copycat revenue model could work: large sections of content funded through advertising, but access to high-quality niche content, to archives more than two weeks old (or something like that), or to value-added service like online storage of favourite articles and media, (other ideas?) is through paid subscription?

  3. Hi Nancy – great to hear from you! I do see where you’re coming from with your concern that if content is free we’ll be deluged with ads/agendas. But I guess I trust the system (maybe it’s me who is naive!) which has allowed a free press to run – with ads – for a long time now. I feel the benefits of connecting communities – in the no paywall model – outweigh the risk of being swayed by advertisers.

  4. Hi Erin-Anne, Thanks for your comment. I agree that we (they?) should be able to come up with some kind of blended scheme here – charging for specialist info etc. And I think it’s intersting that the NYT has said though they are going to charge it’s an experiement!

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