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THE PAYWALL: Why we need it, how to get over it and where do your dollars go?

Which local outlets do you think are really supporting the town and how can we make sure they keep doing all the things they are doing?

The time has come, my dear friends, to decide what kind of news we want, nay deserve to hear. It was announced last week that the Newcastle Herald has introduced a paywall.

For those who don’t know, a paywall is an inbuilt system which restricts the number of stories/articles you can read per month. In the case of the Herald, it’s five stories per month (unless you’re the kind to do a google chrome incognito search then hey you’re still entitled to unlimited stories on the sly). But… what I really want to know, how does this make you feel, and most importantly, where does the money go? Keeping in mind that in the age of fake news, how can we even tell that the news we are paying for is legit?

As everyone knows, I’ve been pretty sceptical of the Herald for a while, and of traditional media (aka big business) in general, but I also respect what they do (yes I really do). By “they” of course I mean those who actually write the stories.

As a fellow writer, I understand the need for things like a paywall, because writers deserve to be paid and be paid well. Most people assume that we just sit and make things up for a living, which to an extent is what we do but we also put a lot of brain power behind such things. But, will the writers benefit from this paywall introduction or is it the institution and big business who has begun raking in dollars?

Don’t get me wrong, most major news outlets have a paywall, let me reiterate that I said major news outlets. I expect a paywall from the New York Times and the Sydney Morning Herald but from a local publication? Perhaps not. I just have a built-in sense of concern that this is a cash grab capping the amount of local content that’s available to us. We want and need local content by local people doing local things. I guess just don’t particularly want to choose which local things I want to read and learn about.

Maybe it’s time for us to start thinking about which other local news outlets we support and how we support them. Which local outlets do you think are really supporting the town and how can we make sure they keep doing all the things they are doing? I’m not just talking about Newcastle Live here either, there are so many amazing local publications who are killing it, and really (really) need our support. Tell us your favs so we can follow them too.

Written by Laura Kebby

I write words about talented people doing talented things, and translate chatter by putting pen to paper.

3 Comments

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  1. Why are we paying for ads and sports for a start? Ads is money, sports is not news but has PR coffers to spew it’s trivial content, the rift that is now lost to Novocastrians is seeing those few actual news stories that develop peoples lives that the ABC just cannot get to and on that note: funding.

    ABC being the political football it is could do Newcastle content but it’s scapegoat status means we are not allowed to have it as often as the Herald.

    Then there were the job cuts by the Herald over the last few years, the journalism nose dived, every second story had grammar issues and the constant sports stories degenerated the institution as a whole and sadly I think it is the new direction. Media companies having to hire writers but smear the journalism side of the work with feelgood novel non-news and media partner spruiking, this is fake news and it is well and truly here (see: non-independent media) also distinguished by those head media honchos “it has to put food on our journalists tables” or “paywall is to keep quality journalism” neither of those fallacies wash with me because there is very very little quality left at the Newcastle Herald because no one new is allowed to write for them.

    The Herald have tried to play down this cash grab . Being paid well? Well kumbaya but that is a fallacy and a sharp market correction thanks to technology for an industry that has failed to plan for the future so those passionate about writing are left questioning if they can sell out as much as middle and senior management tell them to or if they go down the indie road. NewcastleLive! is in the same boat, you push the ads so much and name drop a lot of corporate partners but it is not enough authentic content to get away with a paywall. I know NL! has advertised for writers but what I am seeing a lot of lately (e.g. NTL Mirage, that blew up because the head editor is stuck in his own world and lashes out at all else) is outlets calling for content producers with a tagline akin to “do you love writing” without mentioning that your passion will be quickly burned out with pressure to satiate corporate partners by writing a “story” about a local gym or craft beer that is a mate of the head editor, for example, disenfranchising potential and the industry’s future.

    Scope is so myopic and exclusive, some of the stories over the years actually shape the lives for some and I am not just talking about weather and traffic. Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse anyone? Why do I have to pay $150 a year just to get the latest on that but the other 99% being about sports and ads? Such a ballpark figure shows that paywall behaviour is not presented at all as being factual but as propping up the incomes of those that should in reality go backwards. Where can I find the income made by the Herald from their advertising? Yeah confidential I bet but the obfuscation of such information will irritate many but I would want to see it before considering paying for such trivial content. Personally I ask, where are the music reviewers, the journalists writing about local and international acts in Newcastle? All I see are template articles talking up an artist that a record company has paid some PR dollars for – totally inauthentic.

    If the media companies of Newcastle actually gave those with passion actual real opportunities rather than constantly ghosting potentials and not replying to their inquiries then the chance for high quality journalism will not come as full circle because you are likely to get a concentrated pool of more of the same, too focused on the money and not on their work/passion.

    In the case of the Herald, it has been forgotten by the conglomerate parent companies so much so that the out-of-touch “youngblood” are trying to legitimise asking for donations in return for pages of commercial advertising and sports sports sports. They don’t want diverse writers, they have made that clear, but when change is opposed it paints a bleak future and it is already too late before they realise. If you aren’t going to listen, I’m not gonna listen, if it is news worth paying for then I’m still waiting to be asked what news I want, not an assumption based on demographics and numerical hoohah but it seems to be the news maker you have to keep your distance from the real world?!?!?! o.O We should be allowed to choose which ad types we get affronted with, not ad after ad of betting apps, luxury vehicles or a beer slab on sale – I have no interest in that s**t and it severely limits your reach if media companies don’t empower the end user more with the same technology that is befalling its industry.

    Make no mistake, the duopoly grip is tightening ever further, so the writers need to ask themselves: “should I still play the tired yes man?” “What kind of writer do I want to be: a leader or a follower?”

    Reality bites.

    BTW, I use https://www.snopes.com/tag/australia/ for a small range of fake news articles, I like to keep across toilet journalism too like news.com.au and newscorp when i’m in maccas to see what fake news is doing the rounds in the old peoples rag.

  2. So, just to clarify, you think that journos and everyone else who works like crazy every day at the Herald should give away their ideas, work and (most infuriatingly) leads for free? These outlets or “thieves” never credit the Herald, even though they quote its stories word for word. I’m over people whinging about paying (a pittance) for news. Funnily enough, the people who carry on are most likely the ones who are plagiarising the Herald’s stories. Yes, I work at the Herald. And, sorry to disappoint you, but we don’t make things up….we research actual facts and report them. Also, we don’t go to the office each day and work like dogs so our stories and other work can be stolen daily by radio stations, TV stations, websites and anyone else who is not smart enough, connected enough or creative enough to write their own yarns. We are not here to make up for others’ laziness. It’s like those people who think art should be for free. It’s freaking disrespectful an uncool to expect journos and news outlets to work for free. If you don’t support Hunter news providers in all their forms then you will invariably get another voice speaking for you, telling your stories…and most likely it will be a clueless Sydney voice. Your choice. Also, does this website carry any paid content?

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