“10 years ago Skype, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, Dropbox, and Instagram didn’t exist.
20 years ago there were only 130 websites total, Google wasn’t even around yet, and you had to pay for an email account through an ISP.
30 years ago there was no internet.” – http://www.onesecond.designly.com
Do these facts and figures surprise you at all?
The world we live in is entirely made up of digital printing and this has enabled individuals to freely express themselves over so many different modes, giving our population the freedom to publish what they want, whenever they want!
But is it really okay for all this content to be shared, accessed and used for free?
That is where the concept of a paywall arises.
A paywall is a system that prevents Internet users from accessing webpage content without a paid subscription. There are both “hard” and “soft” paywalls in use. “Hard” paywalls allow minimal to no access to content without subscription, while “soft” paywalls allow more flexibility in what users can view without subscribing, such as selective free content and/or a limited number of articles per month, or the sampling of several pages of a book or paragraphs of an article.
The New York Times began charging $15 for a four week subscription to its website. This means that users are able to read up to ten free articles a month, after which they will be prompted to subscribe. As of May 2012, The New York Times now has 472,000 digital-only subscribers and have successfully implemented the use of soft paywalls.
Similarly, YouTube (a very popular and trending mode of digital publishing) has introduced the concept of paid channels. A YouTube paid channel is a channel for which users pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to watch its videos. Only paying subscribers can view the channel content, except for any specified videos which are made available to everyone for free. This has also been received well by the public and YouTube constantly expands its paid channel partnerships.
The presence of paywalls are both good and bad for print media in today’s digital age. On the plus side, it can be said that paywalls are used to protect the future of journalism. Further, news corporations and media institutions are provided with additional financial support to be able to continuously sustain and develop themselves within the ever-changing media context.
However, there is a significant downside – and we have to ask ourselves; Will paywalls be successful in the future and will the public be willing to pay for content?
With the vast amount of content out on the World Wide Web, how do we differentiate what is and what isn’t worth our money?