The press has been relevant for as long as time. While news has always held it’s value, it’s struggled constantly to keep up with the cost of creation.
From the penny press in 1830 to a million free pieces of content on the internet today, it’s not hard to conclude that free content has always been more popular.
But should we encourage free news?
Our newspapers have been underpriced for the longest time. From the publisher’s perspective, this is to increase circulation. Does the common man add up the cost of paper, cost of press, cost of delivery and most importantly - cost of journalism?
Journalism needs money to run. It always has. And when we subject our journalists to be underpaid, that is when the quality of content goes down. Publishers will always want to be accessible to all but the simple fact remains - quality journalism doesn’t run on smoke.
Media houses have had to lead print publications to reach a wider audience. In recent years, many legacy publishers and new players have come to the digital front to disseminate their content. The digital news websites have been steadily growing in relevance during these present times. And consumption of digital content exponentially increased post-pandemic.
Earlier, publishers needed to afford press, had to import print paper and then set up an office of journalists to find the news. Today, one can start a media organization under much better circumstances. With a group of talented journalists, publishers can now start their own website and with the right technical support - they can bring in revenue from different channels.
Digital media caters the users on the internet. Over 4.66 billion people across the globe use the internet - allowing publishers the widest platform ever!
Publishers can invest in content, distribution, customization and monetization and the internet provides them the reach they need.
Publishers have been using paywalls to provide the readers a more premium experience on their website. This would mean that while users can access some of the content, they can have access to better quality news through subscriptions.
Online subscriptions have been made easy through monetization tools. Publishers can adopt a hybrid paywall, a metered paywall or a soft paywall depending on the user behavior on their website.
Micropayments have also helped readers to make payments online hasslefree.
Although media groups like BBC have run their operations completely on user subscriptions, the same might not be possible for smaller media groups. But increasing the popularity of subscriptions would mean encouraging users to pay for their news and demanding the most accurate facts.
News traveled through papers, back in the day. This meant that everything, from distance to an untimely rain would impact the dissemination. Today, with the internet penetration on a steady incline, the friction has smoothened.
Social media as a platform encourages easy reach and ‘virality’ of content. Netizens can directly interact with the content, retweet their opinion on the matter and spread the word. This, of course, has had a debatable impact on the quality of news.
However, as more people start to consume their news from social media, better rules have come into play from across the globe. Social media platforms have started to take responsibility for the quality of the news and began fact-checking exercises.
For the readers who have invested in quality journalism through subscriptions - social media has become a platform to discuss polls and opinions while having complete stories to back them up.
While it’s easy to expect authentic stories from the media time after time, it would be ignorant to dismiss the reality of journalism. As news consumers pay for news, the revenue streams for media houses will change and thereby allow the press to focus on quality journalism that empowers and uplifts the people.
As more publishers try subscriptions models, one can witness the growth in quality and in-depth journalism. Better revenue would lead to better tools for analytics, reporting and dissemination.