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Paywall myth-buster: from print to screen, quality journalism has never been free to read

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Walled off: From licence fees to cover prices, the news has always come with a charge

Walled off: From licence fees to cover prices, the news has always come with a charge

Walled off: From licence fees to cover prices, the news has always come with a charge

Some of you are angry. Every week, this reporter gets feedback along the following lines: "Why are you hiding that article behind a paywall?" or "How can you justify putting important information behind a paywall?"

Most major newspapers have put one up. Almost uniformly, it's a survival play. But there are still myths surrounding them. Here are five common ones I hear from readers and critics.

1. Newspapers are just profiteering

We can dispense with this one quickly. This column isn't long enough to go into the sorry recent history of newsonomics. But let's put it this way: the vast majority of newspapers have seen their revenue and profitability shrink over the last five to 10 years, whether they have a paywall or not. Almost none of the newspapers have replaced that depleted ad income with paywall revenue. So it's not a case of plutocrat owners rubbing their hands with glee at even more profit. It's a question of keeping the lights on. (And for some newspapers, even a paywall looks like it may be too late.)