bookmark_borderPaying for journalism

Scotsman Hotel
Scotsman Hotel, a photo by buhny on Flickr.
Today The Scotsman announced that they will make a quarter of their editorial staff redundant, and The Telegraph have decided to set up a paywall. On a more positive note, Wings over Scotland’s fundraiser exceeded its ambitious goal, raising more than £30k.

It’s clear that traditional journalism is in danger. However, I’m not really sure that the solution consists of paywalls, fundraisers, intrusive ads etc.

The things is that in the “old” days (about ten years ago), I spent something like £1 a day on buying newspapers (slightly less on workdays and slightly more on Sundays).

However, the advent of blogs and free newspaper websites has changed my behaviour — instead of reading all of one newspaper, I’m now reading 5% of 20.

The money I can spend on reading news hasn’t gone up, so there’s no way I can spend anything near £1 a day for news. On the other hand, if I had to pay 5p per article or blog posting, I probably wouldn’t spend much more than I used to, and everybody would be happy.

The problem is how to do it. I’m not going to set up subscriptions with direct debits or credit card details separately for the 50-100 news sites that I occasionally visit.

The only solution I can think of is a way for newspapers and quality blogs everywhere to create a payment system together, whereby reading a news article triggers a payment from the reader to the writer of 5p or so. The system would then add up all the small payments and send the reader a monthly bill.

However, it isn’t a perfect solution. Many websites would remain outwith this system (most small blogs and the BBC spring to mind), and there will always be a temptation for users to go for the free websites.