Where do you go to find your news?
According to the Digital News Report, there have been significant increases in payment for online news in a number of countries including the United States. But across all markets, most people are still not paying for online news.
Deandria Turner, a news reporter for WFAA in Huntsville, Alabama, believes digital news platforms have the power to become a dominant source for news but will never reach its full potential if news organizations charge people for all access.
“Most millennials will say they get their news from a digital platform,” Turner said. “If you force people to pay for it, I doubt people will continue to use it.”
Turner thinks that some subscribers’ motivation for subscribing is because they believe they are getting better information than from free sources.
“At our station, we understand that most people sway towards our digital platform,” Turner said. “So we are rather focused on how we can make our digital platform more informative over how we can charge people to access it.”
In the United States, many publishers have introduced paywalls, which means more people will be asked to pay – perhaps heightening a sense of scarcity and creating a feeling that news could be worth paying for.
“People should not have to feel like they have to pay for news,” Turner said. “Now we are either going to have people spending their last dime to be informed on news or people simply not informed because they don’t want to pay for it, and I just don’t think that’s right.”
Price and convenience are some of the key factors that could make a difference.
“Local broadcast news is free, so if we make people subscribe to our digital news for a fee, what more are we providing them that they can’t watch on their local news network?” Turner said.
Some outlets now ask readers to register with them in order to be able to access a small number of articles for free.
“As we move toward a more digital world, our focus should be on how we can make our viewers more media literate and how we can make news more accessible,” Turner said. “Not how we as news organizations can profit off of our digital platforms.”
Turner predicts that while many national news digital platform fees will continue to be a thing, she doesn’t see that happening for local news stations’ digital websites.
“We owe it to our viewers to inform them about what’s going on in their neighborhoods. I think most news networks want viewers engaged and aren’t trying to run them away with fines,” Turner said. “The most extreme I can see local digital news getting is making people pay for add pop-ups to disappear.”