Should we pay for news?

The latest Reuters Institute Digital News Report was published this week and contains some interesting information on how news is accessed by people in 12 countries, including the UK.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the study shows that more of us get our news from online and social media sources rather than from traditional media outlets such as newspapers and TV. It seems that around half of us now get our news from our smartphones, often from the BBC News app.

Of course, the challenge for media outlets is how they can make money from these new platforms. This is a question which has been around for a few years now, with nobody as yet coming up with the definitive answer. The Reuters Institute study has found that in the UK just six per cent of people currently pay a subscription for online news, while 75 per cent say that they wouldn’t even consider paying for their news.

Advertising might appear to be the obvious route for making money out of news. However, one in three of us deliberately avoid websites where we feel that the advertising is intrusive. There is also an issue with the fact that many people are now using ad blocking software to save them from being bombarded with commercial messages.

Predictably, the study also shows that many of us are irritated by the growing number of sponsored or branded content articles appearing on news websites. These articles aren’t just annoying; there is also a strong argument for saying that they damage the credibility of the publisher.

At the moment people like me, who buy a print copy of a newspaper most days of the week, are in effect subsidising those people who access their news online for free. The bottom line seems to be that we all want news on our laptop or smartphone, but we’re not prepared to pay for it.


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