OK. The paywalling of large corporate news sites is probably never going to work in the way the concept’s proponents envision. It looks to me like the last gasp of the old print media business paradigm in which the revenue stream was derived both from selling advertising space and through the sales of hardcopies. The selling of hardcopies is essentially analogous to the paywall concept: you pay a sum to view content probably interspersed with paid advertising. I just don’t see this being a viable business model in a world where information can travel frictionlessly via the internet and even information behind paywalls can never be adequately protected from unauthorized use. So the online subscription/pay to view model is tottering on shaky economic underpinnings.

So. How do we go forward? Simple, by adapting the model to the realities of the internet where content flows frictionlessly but where publishing costs are relatively trivial and the opportunities for generating advertising revenues are real and significant and probably even growing as the number of viewing eyeballs inexorably grows. Here’s how it might work: A reputable journalist or group of journalists from the old media balliwicks boldly decides to go freelance and self publish. So this person or persons create content with existing demand and either publishes via their own website, joins together with other content authors to create an online venue with no ties to old print media with their crushing overhead costs or simply sells the right to publish their work on other websites. If people want to read the content produced, the ad revenues flow back to the authors either directly- not being compromised by some media mogul taking their cut before paying out a portion as a salary- or indirectly by the online republishers paying the authors for the added advertising value to their own sites.

The key is the decoupling of the authors’ paystreams from the crushing overhead expenses of traditional print media with their huge staffs and buildings and presses to take full advantage of the possibilities of the inherently low costs, existing web advertising revenue models and economic efficiencies of web publishing. A future where the content authors instead of selling their work to huge media conglomerates, either as salaried employees or as freelancers, sell or directly monetize through advertising their own work without the old media moguls getting their cut.

I personally find the prospect of the process of journalism being owned by journalists or associations of journalists publishing without having corporate gatekeepers controlling the process to their own ends exciting. Maybe nobody gets rich this way, but maybe lots of journalists can make a viable living writing what they are passionate about.

Kurt Sperry

Kurt Sperry