A paywall, sometimes called a pay meter, is a controversial measure taken by many publishers to attempt to collect money in exchange for the task of reporting the news and informing the public.
This arcane idea that one’s labors should be rewarded with a payment of some kind is lost on many news consumers, who believe news should be “free” and should just land in front of their eyes without any sort of payment being taken for services rendered.
Of course, news consumers aren’t entirely to blame, as news organizations have always charged mere pennies for their news products, relying mostly on advertising to pay their bills. Unfortunately, advertising in the digital space does not work as well as print and broadcast, because advertisers have become obsessed with “clickthru ratios” and now think they should be the ones who pay pennies for a product.
In a world where news consumers wish to pay absolutely nothing for news, and advertisers wish to pay pennies for the ads that support that news, it only makes sense that publishers would find some way to survive and not starve. So, the paywall was devised. This device allows a website visitor to read a few paragraphs or even a few stories before a nice popup or embedded message tells them that they must now pay a small, recurring monthly fee to continue using the website.
While the majority of news consumers still insist news should be free and refuse to pay, those who understand economics do tend to be persuaded to pay for a digital subscription. Publishers are keenly aware that this method will not work for the long-term, but it is the best thing they have come up with to date and will probably remain in place until Google and Facebook — two entities that actually rule the world and determine the fate of the publishing industry as a whole — decide to further penalize websites with paywalls.
Photo by christoph.ch