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[Op-Ed] Fee-based Access to Internet News

Posted August. 26, 2009 08:21,   


Media corporations make money on the Internet through online ads in return for providing news content free of charge online. Many of them, however, seek to charge for access to their online news products as their financial difficulties aggravate. Three former American journalists in April founded Journalism Online, a provider of paid news services. More than 500 companies, including 176 newspapers and some 330 forms of print media and news sites, have sent letters of intent to sign up as news providers for the new venture. An Internet site providing paid news content will debut this fall.

Journalism Online helps lessen the risk of reduced readership that could happen if just a small number of media companies charge for their contents. The Financial Times of the U.K. has 117,000 paying subscribers despite the public’s addiction to free online news. The New York Times has been providing free online news after failed attempts to charge fees. The major U.S. daily is now considering ways to charge five U.S. dollars as a monthly subscription fee.

The trend of free online news could result in lowering their quality and undermining democracy by financially jeopardizing media corporations. The global economic recession has also led to a drive to charge readers for online news access. News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch said Aug. 5 that his company will charge for access to all of News Corp. Web sites, including The Times of the U.K., by June next year. His media group lost 3.4 billion dollars in the fiscal year that ended in June. Murdoch says his companies cannot provide free news services while in the red. The Wall Street Journal, also owned by Murdoch, has been charging for access to its Internet content.

The move toward fee-based access to content results from the spread of the pay-per-view notion for quality. Video-on-demand is a common feature for global broadcasting, while Hulu, which allows Internet users free online video services in return for viewing ads, is gaining popularity in the U.S.

An increasing number of content providers of music, videos and electronic books charge for access. Domestic terrestrial broadcasters have begun to charge fees for downloading their programs online. Content users need to know of the need to pay for quality news content for the news industry to survive.

Editorial Writer Hong Kwon-hee (konihong@donga.com)