If journalism is going to survive, readers will have to pay for it

The start of this year has been tough for online news outlets, with a raft of job losses and closures. But there’s bad news for readers too: if you want quality journalism, you will have to pay for it, says David Barnett

Sunday 10 February 2019 13:30
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Why would you pay a couple of quid for a newspaper when you can pick up your phone and read the same articles for no money at all?
Why would you pay a couple of quid for a newspaper when you can pick up your phone and read the same articles for no money at all?

Imagine for a moment that you were a purveyor of fine cakes at the time when the internet really began to take off. Wondering how you could get yourself motoring along what we used to call, rather quaintly, the information superhighway, you hit upon an innovative business plan. The cake shop on the high street will remain open, and continue the model it’s always followed — selling cakes to customers over the counter. But you have set up a website, and anyone going to it can get your cakes absolutely free.

It’s the sort of business idea which, if you’d taken it to Dragon’s Den, would probably have resulted in Deborah Meaden filleting your spine from your body out of sheer rage. And yet, this is precisely how newspapers embraced the internet.

Fast forward to 2019, and as we step over the ragged cake-maker huddled against the wall of his former shop — now an artisan coco-pops cafe — we realise that anyone who’s reaching adulthood this year will have lived their lives feeling that paying for news is an alien concept.

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