This past weekend, I read this 2010 article from the New York Times, and I thought it was really interesting because it closely relates to a lot of the discussions we’ve had in class over the past few weeks.  Print circulation has been on a downward spiral over the past decade, and one of the most obvious causes being attributed to this is the increasing popularity of the internet.  One of the most affected newspapers cited in the article was the San Francisco Chronicle, which lost 22.7 percent of its weekday sales!

The article went on to highlight some other causes for decreasing popularity of printed news.  Some of these included:

  • The 2008 recession, which caused readers to cut down on extra expenses such as newspaper subscriptions;
  • newspapers consciously raising prices to increase revenue, while
  • narrowing down delivery services to save money on printing, packing and shipping

The economic recession of the late 2000s is definitely not a point that one can argue with.  However to me, the two other points still seem to be a result of the influence of the internet and its (mostly) free content. People stopped buying newspapers and magazines because they could get the information they needed online for free, which then prompted the newspaper industry to find ways to save money and increase revenue.The fact that the internet has become people’s first choice for access to breaking news and free information is something that is unfortunately inevitable.  Things that are posted online can be viewed immediately and stories can be updated and corrected 24/7.

Furthermore to the internet’s advantage, this information is readily available to ANYONE who has internet access (and doesn’t live in a country where internet content in censored).  The speed and efficiency with which internet disseminates news makes online content much more desirable than print, and it is now a challenge for the news industry to see what they can do to use the internet to their best (financial) advantage.

Perhaps news corporations have already found the solution to making online news profitable: the introduction of paywalls.  Well, at least it is serving as a temporary solution, seeing as paywall implementation is a highly debated topic in the news industry.  Since most of us access the news using phones, laptops and other hand-held devices, major news corporations have turned to the use of a web-based news subscription.  People can now pay a monthly, weekly or per-article fee to read online news content. The New York Times was one of the paywall movement pioneers and it looks like it has been relatively successful, thus paving the way for other news corporations to follow suit.

The Boston Globe is one of the most recent news sources to set up the online paywall.  However, they have taken a pretty unique approach to this business strategy, posting free content to and more journalistic news pieces behind a paywall on The verdict is yet to be reached on how effective this will be in regards to increased revenue, but one can imagine that there will be much to gain from the Boston Globe’s loyal readership… if they are, in fact, as loyal as the Boston Globe hopes.

The easiest argument against newspaper paywalls is that that there will always be an abundance of competitors, willing to provide news for free:

“The biggest flaw from a business perspective, particularly for smaller newspapers, is that walling up your content is an invitation to free competitors — from AOL’s and Huffington Post to Mainstreet Connect andNeighborhoodr and — to come and take away your readers.” –Mathew Ingram

Sometimes reality can veer from theory though, so only time will tell whether paywalls are the way to go as newspapers make the transition from print to online content.  Til then, take a minute of your time to think about where you’re getting your news from and what effect it’s having on the newspaper industry… you may actually consider starting up a subscription!