While younger generations are taking for granted that news content should be delivered for free, producing reliable and worth reading news content requires marked efforts that often times cannot be compensated through ad revenue alone.
Even global publications such as The New York Times, Wired, and The Economist have introduced paywalls recently. They can afford to lose a few hundreds of readers unwilling to pay for news and editorials. Actually, the readership of The New York Times online edition is increasing while smaller publications are disappearing all over the world.
Paying for news content is in fact the only source of income for many newsworthy newspapers and magazines that are facing constantly shrinking ad spending budgets for print media.
Who Pays for News Content
Last year saw a marked increase in digital subscription in the United States, mainly due to the political polarization during the presidential elections won by Donald Trump. Interestingly, the US media have managed to retain the pace of growth of their online news subscriptions. Media in other regions of the world, however, lack this comfort and struggle to meet ends having insignificant number of paying online subscribers.
Scandinavia leads the way for digital news subscriptions with 36% of readers in Norway paying for delivery of news content. About 26% of people in Sweden and 18% of readers in Finland are paying for news. In contrast, only 7% of the news readers in the United Kingdom are subscribed to a digital news service.
News subscription penetration in the United States stands at 16% while in neighboring Canada the figure is 9%, slightly more than Germany's 8%.
Donations to News Media as Alternative
A report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) says that donations to news organizations is a viable alternative for supporting creation of worthy content by incumbent and new media services. In donations to news organizations, however, are engaged only 1% of the people in the UK and meager 3% in the United States. Sure, you have large donors that may contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to a particular media outlet but these are relatively rare.
On the other hand, 22% of respondents participating in the survey claim they will donate in the future if a news organization is unable to finance its operations another way. Which is a good news provided that a growing number of quality news outlets experience troubles securing enough funds through advertising.
As a matter of fact, more and more media around the world are asking for donations with the recent campaign by The Guardian being a good example how a world-known newspaper is struggling in the digital age. Another good news is that readers are also increasingly willing to respond to such campaigns in a positive manner and support media they consider as producing reliable and quality news content.
How Much Quality News Content Costs
Producing reliable and quality news is a costly and resource-consuming effort even if you a small local publication. Delivering daily news is twice as hard. So, hundreds of publications around the globe should deliver newsworthy content in the age of fake news and proliferation of obscure news sources whose focus is on monetizing viral content.
Paying for quality content is probably the single most important income source for these publications. If leading world newspapers like The Guardian are asking for donations, you can imagine how a local newspaper meets ends.
The truth is that quality content costs money and should not be provided entirely for free. Some publications accept backing from party foundations or industry associations to survive, which in turn results in dependencies that hardly produce quality news and unbiased editorials.
A paywall may not be the best solution; nonetheless, quality journalism is expensive and requires financial efforts by both sides - the media outlet and its readers. We all should admit we have to pay for quality content or we risk having media organizations that are highly susceptible to influencing by large corporate donors and government agencies providing grants in exchange for media comfort.
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