Chisholm States Why Charging For Newspaper Websites Is Self-Destructive

Nobody in the world knows more about newspaper operations than Jim Chisholm. That is a declarative sentence.

The former senior strategy advisor to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and former director of its Shaping the Future of the Newspaper project, as well as the former managing director of daily newspaper, Chisholm nowadays is a principal of iMedia, WAN-Ifra’s joint venture advisory service.

I declare his expertise and mention his credentials because no less than he has now declared daily newspapers’ attempts to begin for access to their websites. For example, The Times of London now charges online for access. Chisholm says that doing this simply “can’t work because the amount of money they will lose through lost advertising is far greater than the amount made up for with their paywall…If the Times are going to charge and the Guardian and Telegraph aren’t, readers are just going to move somewhere else because they [UK online consumers] are reading on average four newspapers a day online.”

So don’t take it from me, a graduate school professor of news industry New Media and newspaper consultant, that newspapers’ charging for online access is self-destructive. Accept the words of  Chisholm.

Advocates of newspapers charging for online access, people such as Rupert and James Murdoch, Steven Brill and L. Gordon Crovitz, or Walter Hussman, use superficial or specious logic to back their aim.

For instance, they say that because newspaper content is expensive to produce it shouldn’t be given away for free. Or that people have paid for that content in print, so that they should be willing to pay for it online. Or that people who’ve grown used to free access to newspaper websites simply must be ‘educated’ to pay. Or that the why fewer and fewer people are paying for printed newspaper is because those people can instead  get access to those newspapers’ content for free.

That’s unfortunate for them because Chisholm (and I also), people who say it won’t work, base our knowledge on not upon specious or superficial logic or wishes, but upon the newspaper industry’s own data and case studies from newspaper’s attempts to charge for online access during the past 19 years since the Internet opened to public use.

For example, download and look at the data in Chisholm’s PowerPoint slides from his speech Monday at the UK Society of Editors Conference. His slides prove why newspapers that charge for online access to their websites’ are shooting themselves in their guts.  Read Chisholm’s 12 slides (two of which are simply title slides). The folly of charging isn’t hard to understand.

Moreover, Chisholm addresses the real problem which newspaper people who advocate charging intentionally ignore:

“There’s no statistical evidence that the internet has damaged circulation any more than a whole range of other factors. I’ve not been able to find any evidence of this anywhere, and I’ve studied this in a dozen different [international] markets.”

Publishing a newspaper’s content online for free isn’t really why newspaper printed circulation is declining. Likewise, publishing a newspaper’s content online — whether for free access or paid access — won’t stop those declines.

3 Replies to “Chisholm States Why Charging For Newspaper Websites Is Self-Destructive”

  1. I only read newspapers when I don’t have access to the internet which is when I am on a plane sometimes. When I have access to the internet, websites of newspapers are the last thing to go to, paid or free.

    They are just too slow to present new stories the minute they happen and more importantly almost never updated real time (except through the user comments). So I never know if what I am reading still hold true or it’s 10 hours old.

    I’d prefer blogs anyday.

  2. Vincent,

    Could you please fix the link to the slides, it is currently pointing to a local path in your computer:


    Thank you,

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