CRF Blog

The Future of News

by Bill Hayes

In The Future of News for Bloomberg Businessweek, John Micklethwait predicts quality journalism is returning.

The quality press has staged a remarkable resurrection, thanks to the introduction of metered paywalls that charge regular readers but still leave their websites open to much larger audiences of occasional visitors who can see advertisements. The New York Times, which already has almost 2 million digital subscribers, is aiming for 10 million; about 100 million people still visit its website each month. The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, and the Economist all make most of their money by charging people for their content; old advertising-first fiefdoms, like Condé Nast and the Los Angeles Times, are also now building paid circulation quickly. Even Le Monde — hardly most people’s idea of capitalism — is now apparently profitable, thanks to a paywall.

This week, we at Bloomberg joined the trend — with our own consumer subscription business. We already have perhaps the most profitable professional paywall, through the Bloomberg terminal; now we’re expanding a version of the Businessweek paywall we erected last year to cover all of Bloomberg.com. There are rumblings from Facebook and Google that they will start paying old media for content. Even the Guardian, the most fervent advocate of the idea of free news, now asks, very respectfully, for you to make a donation. Its begging letter has attracted 800,000 supporters.

The reason for this transition? It’s partly negative. No news provider has maintained much of a profit out of advertising, no matter how big its audience. But there’s also a positive reason: Consumers will pay. [more]