Is it fair to charge for news online?

A Graphic History of Newspapers over the Past Two Decades shows the rapid decrease of some of the most popular newspapers in circulation. The Wall Street Journal is the only newspaper to maintain it’s readership, however, we can see that since 2003 it hasn’t experienced any growth.

This shows to what extent, the Interent has exploded in a number of countries. This image focuses on how Australia interacts with different media forms, the Internet being the clear favourite.

This image shows an increasing number of people are finding news online, rather than in newspapers in Australia and the UK. With the increase in digital technology, it is becoming more convenient to read what we want, when we want it… for free. But what does this mean for the print publishing?

Billionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch has reported huge financial loss over the past few years. In 2009, profits across News Corp’s global newspaper division fell from $786m to $466m. In an effort to prevent further loss, Murdoch is about to start charging for access to all his news websites, including the Times, Sunday Times, the News of the World and The New York Times. These paywalls will be introduced by 2011 and have been met with mixed reviews.

Personally, I’m in two minds. At first I think that it’s a greedy business decision. All of a sudden we are forced to pay for what seems like a right, not a product. Information should be free – or free after paying the broadband supplier at least.

On the other hand, we pay a couple of dollars for the newspaper and we don’t complain, because that’s the way it’s always been. The online version is interactive and generally more convenient, so perhaps paying a small fee to access online content isn’t such a crazy idea after all.

I’m more concerned that if the circulation of newspapers continues to plummet and we continue accessing online news for free, what then for print journalists? They can’t work for free. Currently newspapers still receive a lot of money from advertising, but advertising too will ditch print eventually.

Murdoch claims that, “quality journalism is not cheap. The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free”.

Many journalists, or budding journalists like myself, opt for a career in PR or television, due to the lack of jobs and financial security in print. To sustain the quality of journalism, people may need to pay to read the journalists work.

The issue for Murdoch is that there will always be companies willing to make their online content available for free. It will be interesting to see how Murdoch’s decision will impact News Corp’s 2011 annual report.

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