Does Setting Up A Paywall Suddenly Make Your Readers Erudite & Intellectual vs. Crass & Tacky?

from the i-don't-buy-it dept

We've seen all sorts of bizarre defenses of paywalls for newspapers, but I think this latest one might be the strangest. Melanie Coulson, a senior editor at the Ottawa Citizen, which recently added a paywall, makes the argument that paywalls are needed to get newspapers to stop competing for pageviews with crass and tacky attention-grabbing stories and photo galleries:
If a newsroom is working to get a lot of page views, it’s simply a case of posting a lot of photo galleries, and celebrity stories. I can only imagine this is why, last winter, we posted galleries illustrating AquaYoga poses and NHL Cheerleaders.

However, once you’re working to please/increase subscribers, your objectives change.
Mathew Ingram does a nice job debunking this (non-)logic by pointing out that just because you have a paywall, it doesn't mean that newspapers won't still focus on "pageview-based tactics."

The entire basis of Coulson's argument is kind of bizarre. It's basically saying that readers who pay for a paywall do so to save themselves from themselves. You see, if the content is free, then they're drooling idiots who love clicking through photo galleries. But if they pay, then suddenly they're only interested in the latest socially relevant investigative reporting. But there's absolutely nothing to suggest that's true. The lowest common denominator stuff may upset one's sense of what's high level "journalism," but if that's what people are interested in, then it's where some publications are going to head.

The reality is that there appears to be room in the market for that sort of page view whoring content and more thoughtful journalism -- but I don't see how that automatically separates itself out along the lines of who's willing to pay and who isn't. One could just as easily make the argument that a site with a paywall will feel more of a need to post silly photo galleries and attention whoring content... just to convince people to subscribe.

Nothing about having a paywall suddenly makes your audience more erudite and cultured. It just makes your audience smaller.

Filed Under: advertising, business models, journalism, paywalls

Reader Comments

The First Word

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2012 @ 1:06pm

    I for one am glad that this site does not have a paywall. The photo galleries and coverage on Cheerleaders from all the major sports is what keeps me coming back. The crass and tacky reporting done here is just icing on the cake.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.