Will paywalls make a significant contribution to resolving the news crisis?

AT Alastair Thompson Public Seen by 143

Taken from Five Starting Points For A Public Conversation On The Future of News In NZ

Is it realistic to think (as many people do) that the long awaited introduction of paywalls by major news publishers will contribute significantly towards resolving the news crisis? Or should we consider the possibility that while subscription revenue will definitely contribute towards the viability of news businesses, it will almost certainly not be able to fund quality real news reporting to the general public?

In NZ at present Public broadcasting is increasingly picking up the pieces of a broken news puzzle. The importance of Radio New Zealand in particular as a source of professionally produced high quality public interest news has grown significantly over the past six years - a period during which its budget has been frozen and it has had to resort to selling assets like its grand piano to fund important projects.

NZ on Air also funds public news services on Television principally, but recently also broke its self-imposed ban on funding online news content by contributed some money towards Radio New Zealand's TheWireless.co.nz.

While public funding of news services will doubtless be an important part of the solution to the problems faced by the news media. It is not a panacea. In truth public broadcasters are not truly free - they are an arm of Government and are therefore limited in what doors they can open and what sort of stories they can pursue. Also single, large news edifices are not what news needs. Rather it needs competing bold, free and challenging voices. One can easily imagine a situation in which, as the rest of the media becomes increasingly incapacitated, taxpayer funded news services will become increasingly vulnerable to government interference. Already in NZ and Australia the National Party and the Liberal Party have targeted public broadcasters for cost cutting, presumably because of a perception of liberal bias.

  • Alastair Thompson, Scoop Editor & Publisher

Greg Brier Sun 8 Feb 2015 4:00PM

No they wont ...they will serve to keep the public in the dark even more than they are now . Furthermore , large especially disadvantaged sections of society will be excluded by budgetary issues.
Complete change is necessary ....the horse is dead . We live in an age of extreme challenge to freedom coming from governments and corporate society , who in my reckoning are fast becoming one entity effectively , as governments are more and more subject to corporate will . A quick look at who doesn't pay tax will verify that.


Alastair Thompson Thu 12 Feb 2015 3:30AM

Hi Greg. Welcome to the discussion. One of the things I found quite shocking about the tax cheat revelations is how many people in the public service seem to like avoiding tax.


Alastair Thompson Fri 13 Feb 2015 9:14AM


"Today’s data contained another depressing first.
Those whose job it is to talk up the industry often claim that when you add in digital subscriptions (and ignore that they bring in much smaller revenues), overall paying audiences are up.
That ended today.
The combined print and digital audience fell for every single daily and weekend metro and national paper in the audit.
This table removes the double counting of print subscribers who don’t even know they are digital subscribers (more on that below). As you’ll see when you add the three types of subscriber – print-only, digital-only and print-digital packages – not a single masthead has grown.

By my reckoning, newspapers have fewer paying customers than at any point in the last half century or more.
It gets worse yet for News Corp’s Victorian title the Herald Sun. It became the first newspaper to see its digital subscriber numbers record a negative number compared to the previous quarter – down from 50,360 to 49,425. (It should also be noted that News Corp’s other big tabloids have never taken part in the digital audit – most likely because their numbers are embarrassingly small)."


pilotfever Sat 14 Feb 2015 1:51PM

I would rather fund independent bloggers or have tax revenue support independent news. The paywall is so millennial. There are better mechanisms on the horizon than paywalls. Look to YouTube, Google and Twitter and RealWorlds eye gaze tracking and emotional facial analytics model for advertisers.

Founder, RealWorld - "Reality Virtualised for the Real You" Limited


Andrew McPherson Mon 9 Mar 2015 12:49AM

The alternative would logically be to pay for distribution of freely accessed information on a social platform, which is the approach my social network is doing.
By making sharing of information rewarded with micropayments of the cryptocurrency in the network, the need for paywalls is diminished, but remains a viable method of payment within the system.