The COVID-19 pandemic has made survival even more uncertain for print media. Local newspapers, such as the Grand Rapids Press, have had to operate with a devastating loss of advertising revenues.
The result of this decrease in advertising revenue has led to newspapers putting more emphasis on the use of paywalls, or requiring payment to read stories online. The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News recently announced that they will start putting some of their content behind a paywall. Peter Bhatia, editor and vice president of the Free Press, told WDET.org that about 10% of the Free Press’ content could end up behind the paywall including enterprise reporting and investigations unique to the paper.
Overseas, The South China Morning Post brought back its paywall four years after it made its articles free of charge. In a letter to readers, SCMP’s editor-in-chief Tammy Tam stated that “comprehensive reporting is costly and the century-old advertising model is no longer enough to sustain high-quality news.”
The verdict is still out on the effectiveness of paywalls as a viable revenue source for news organizations. The New York Times has had success with putting their content behind paywalls but they are a national behemoth. For smaller newspapers it hasn’t, and won’t, been as easy.