Why Lionel Barber & Paid News are a Distraction

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Oh, dearie me. I have a feeling that the issue of paywalls and charging for content is going to dominate the online journalism discussion for the rest of the summer, isn’t it? The Guardian has run a piece onFinancial Times editor Lionel Barber, which focuses heavily on his views on paid online content. It has several things in it which I agree with:

News organisations with specialist skills and knowledge have the opportunity to thrive. The mediocre middle is much more at risk.

Couldn’t agree more. The internet is ruthless with mediocrity, far more so than print.
However, there’s stuff I really disagree with:

Barber said building online platforms that could charge readers on an article-by-article or subscription basis was one of the key challenges facing news organisations.

Oh, dearie me. I couldn’t agree less. I was just gearing myself up to write a riposte to this argument, when I discovered (by means of RSS-reading prevarication) that Shane Richmond has already done it for me, and nailed what I think is the solution in his last paragraph:

However, we have known for years that readers will pay for niche services, such as Fantasy Football or crosswords. So what services, what products, what scarce goods can we provide to our regulars, our loyal readers, our community? I’m certain that the answer to our problems lies in the answer to that question.

And all this business of article-by-article charging, or shoving traditional news content behind a paywall is just a distraction from getting on with that.

business modelsfinancial timeslionel barbermonetisationshane richmond

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.