The Open Culture of Crisis

“Extra, extra, read all about it.” In the good ol’ days, people got their news for the cost of a daily newspaper.

As news consumption habits have shifted to the digital world, online media is vastly more popular than print, and is even closing the gap with television. So how do news organizations make money when they aren’t selling papers? Some major newspapers continue to rely on advertisements and donations to maintain their open culture. The Sydney Morning Herald, for instance, is accessible to the general public, whereas The Australian limits access to non-subscribers. The switch to a closed culture is not specific to Australia.

Donation request from The Guardian

In the U.S., most major newspapers have adopted a paywall system.

This paywall can serve as a double-edged sword. A free and independent media is essential to any free and independent democracy. However, the former’s survival depends upon the public’s willingness to pay for this vital information service.

In the wake of tragedies and major news events, corporations have cracked open the door of their closed culture by temporarily reducing or removing their paywall.

The Boston Globe dropped its paywall when it became the go-to source for updates regarding the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

The New York Times dropped its paywall for the 72 hours surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Washington Post dropped its paywall in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey “in order to provide readers unlimited access to weather coverage and important safety information.”

These decisions to prioritize public interest over profitability are a testament to news organizations’ desire to balance profit with public service. And we still need good journalism. Desperately.

Left Brain Write Mind