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Several news organizations have blocked their website content behind paywalls. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post are noteworthy examples. Paywalls are an attempt to force the reader to pay a subscription to access the news articles of the day. The question is what kind of a journalist wants her or his work held captive from the public?

Paywall News Organizations: The Road to Irrelevance

Out of Sight, Out of Mind, and Irrelevant

The thinking of these organizations is that the value of the content behind the paywall will create a desire for the reader to open a wallet and pay them money. The problem with that theory is that information is not ‘owned’ by a news organization, it is only packaged. News is what happens in the world and is reported in the raw on Twitter, Facebook, and all the other free sources on the Internet.

What investor-owned news media attempts to do is make the reader pay for their packaging of the news, not the product itself, and in an age of the Internet, someone else can offer the same product in a different package for free. 

For the writer or journalist that creates the packaging of the news, it means that the public can’t see her or his work…ever. If people can’t see your work, you become irrelevant. The best writer in the world risks becoming invisible when all his or her creative efforts are on a pay-to-read basis.

Even those who are willing to pay for the subscription can’t share an article with others when it is behind a paywall. The benefit of readers discussing a journalist’s work is limited to the subset of those who pay-to-read and in a ‘Share’ world, that is a critical shortfall.

Paying Journalists For Their Work Myth

The organizations that inflict a paywall on the reader and the journalists defend the decision by saying:

Someone has to pay for quality journalism!

But that is a lie. The truth is closer to the statement:

Our investors have to suck as much money out of the work of the journalists!

Note the list of news organizations and, according to Forbes magazine, who owns (as of June 2016) the controlling stake in them.

Behind Hard Paywall (all articles pay-to-read)

  • Wall Street Journal – Billionaires Rupert Murdoch and Lachian Murdoch
  • The Washington Post – Billionaire Jeff Bezos

Behind Soft Paywall (limited free views)

  • New York Times – Billionaire Carlos Slim Helu
  • Wired – Billionaire Donald Newhouse
  • The New Yorker– Billionaire Donald Newhouse

No Paywall

  • Bloomberg Businessweek – Billionaire Michael Bloomberg

The people who control these news organizations don’t need to find new ways to pay journalists. They are just using journalists for greed.

News As Entertainment

Journalism is a philanthropic duty. It is not created to generate profit for investors, it is created to provide information to citizens. The transition from journalism to entertainment is strictly about greed.

Few great journalists become wealthy, but great journalists become the keystone to a great society. The fall of our country can be traced, at least in part, to the fall of journalism. If journalism is about making money then journalists are just prostitutes of news.