Friday, October 26, 2012

Paywalls: The last nail in mainstream media's coffin?

So the Globe and Mail has just put up a new paywall which has been a growing trend amongst news outlets in the last few years. I remember back in the 90s a common question during small talk was "The Sun or The Journal?", most people here in my hometown only received one and few received the Globe and Mail on top of it. Same went for the National Post. In other words, people usually had one choice of news outlet and trusted that this news outlet would deliver reports on everything they need to know about and internet based information was really limited to lame personal websites.

Today however, the news is a much different beast. There are hundreds of online news sites, some of which have only an online presence. The old 90's news outlet loyalty is all but gone with most people now not caring who provides the news so long as it's provided. On Twitter, I and many others, link news from a multitude of websites both foreign and domestic as the best way to really see what's happening is to go straight to the source. The media landscape has significantly changed and outlets basing their future on the old loyalty subscription model are going to find it dwindling.

From a practical standpoint, online news subscriptions I believe are doomed and antiquated. It's a lot easier for me when scanning the news to simply omit items from paywalled sites since most stories will be reported in non-paywalled  outlets anyway. Again, there's hundreds to choose from and usually a Google search of the paywalled headline will bring up a free version. It's certainly a lot easier than attempting to subscribe and track those subscriptions to the hundreds of websites I source. No single source I use is dependable or accurate enough to warrant a subscription - it's only by using all of them in aggregation that I am able to perform news analysis.

This idea of 1 subscription for 1 site is really what's going to cause this idea to fail. When it came to specialty news sites, like the Wall Street Journal or The Financial Times, subscriptions could be expected as these outlets still have a group of loyal readers; for many on Wall Street nothing other than the two will do. However, when it comes to standard news outlets they should be taking a cue from the online porn industry which long ago realized that with a market so plush with porn sites simply offering 1 site with a subscription isn't enough and so now most porn subscriptions grant access to a number of different sites all operating under the same "ring". If media websites want to have subscriptions then they either need to step up their game and earn the loyalty they think they deserve by reporting all of the news or they need to adopt the single payer gateway that porn rings have. I should be able to with a single subscription, subscribe to every paper put out in Canada in online form for a low monthly fee.

Mainstream media continues to lose ground to the growing web of alternative media, citizen journalists, and blogs. Blogs like this one which exist to distribute what I believe is important information, and not to make money. Blogs continue to expose the truths the mainstream medias won't touch, blogs sent people to cover the Bilderberg meeting, not mainstream news. Blogs were covering the first week of Occupy while the mainstream media under a blackout ignored it. Blogs were closely covering the gulf oil spill and Fukushima as governments played games and the media aided in the cover up. Russia Today presented the "Third Party Presidential Debate" - RUSSIA TODAY!

Blogs number in the thousands, they don't respect blackouts, and are quickly gaining loyalty while mainstream media loses theirs. The mainstream media has a lot of work to do to earn back the respectand loyalty they think they deserve especially to warrant a subscription to their service.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for CenturyLink

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

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