January 3, 2013
Paywalls are becoming increasingly popular as a mechanism to help the mainstream newspapers stay afloat financially. They don't see much alternative to the economics of paywalls and digital subscription revenue.
In Australia The Australian is behind a paywall, as is Crikey. So is the AFR and, from all accounts, the rest of Fairfax will follow this year. That leaves the ABC as a free access site. However, paywalls, even in their New York Times form, are only a contribution to cash flow, not an answer. Cutting resources too rigorously – as Fairfax is doing means that you may not have the staff to man one news outlet properly, let alone two. Push up cover prices too zealously and the print product may go into precipitate decline before any online alternative can begin to cover it losses.
Kevin Drum points out at Mother Jones this is a trend that's a real problem for blogging:
I currently subscribe to three newspapers: the LA Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. This costs me over a thousand dollars a year, but I need to have access to all these sites to do my job decently. But as more and more media sites start erecting paywalls, I simply won't be able to afford to keep up all the subscriptions. ... as more and more sites go down this path, my choices are going to get harder and harder.
He points out that blogging has always been critically dependent on having free access to a wide variety of media, since you need to trawl through huge amounts of material to find the occasional pieces you want to write about. But as free access gets rarer, blogging is going to get harder.
We will have to increasingly rely on backdoor entrances or porous paywalls. Hence the need for an Australian Independent Media Network