AB Thinks  →  20th March 2016

To pay or not to pay?

There’s a rising argument that paid-for journalism no longer has its place. With the demise of daily newspapers and regional weeklies, people are finding it easier to obtain their news and information from a free source online.

Gone are the days of residents eagerly awaiting their local newspaper to be delivered. Vanished too are the days of people popping out for a paper. Well, for most of us.

As the scandals rise among the mass media, with the likes of the phone-hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry, the public are fast ditching their daily fix of news from the big ’uns and their local rags, for the likes of social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, and more regular websites like BBC News, the Mail Online and BuzzFeed.

Coming from a background in local news journalism, it‰’s a bitter pill to swallow. Real journalism costs money. Investigating, travelling, reporting from conflict-zones and collating interviews take time and are key to reporting on the news. Some say it‰’s this type of journalism that is crucial to a democracy. Others have faith in the current powers, Google and Facebook, who are reigning champions for the largest distributors of journalistic content.

Budding journalists are also on the demise as there are fewer incentives to work in the industry. If you‰’re starting out as a potential newshound, the pay is low and there aren‰’t many benefits. You have to be passionate about becoming a journalist to make it and believe that it will be better further down the line. You also have to believe in authenticity and strive to rise above the churning of material or regurgitating reports and press releases.

Consumers are now relying on gadgets and gizmos to inform, entertain and communicate. This has been both a blessing and a curse to paid-for journalism. For some, it has opened up a new revenue stream, an extra channel and/or an add-on to help fund the newspaper. For others, it has led to the demise of the paid-for, usually print, title, and the rise of the free, online version.

So, I hear you cry, what is the solution? Right now, there isn‰’t one. The industry is exploring new revenue streams, and those who have been able to reap the benefits of this new digital social world are doing just that. Whether they’ve turned their existing print title into an app, ventured online, or expanded their social media channels, they’ve tried to grab a piece of the pie any which way they can.

I say, keep the paid-for print titles alive or sign up online, even if it is for a fee. It’s safer to be getting the real news, as it happens, and it costs to get the full story.