The Case Against Pay Walls

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger called the growth of newspapers' digital audience "a beacon of hope" in his 2010 Hugh Cudlipp lecture, a lengthy address on the state of journalism. Rusbridger noted that Cudlipp, a Welsh journalist and newspaper editor in the '50s and '60s, didn't have to write about business models. Yet one of the most common questions editors like Rusbridger is asked today is, "What's the business model?" Rusbridger addressed one business model in particular: charging for all content online. While charging for content maybe be right for the Times of London and New York, Rusbridger said, that tactic won't work for everyone. "It may be right at some point for everybody in the future, but not yet," he said. There is still more to be learned by different people trying different models than all stampeding to one model, he added. In Rusbridger's view, a universal pay wall would change the way publications like The Guardian do journalism. What's the alternative? "It is not about replacing the skills and knowledge of journalists with (that ugly phrase) user-generated content," Rusbridger said. "It is about experimenting with the balance of what we know, what we can do, with what they know, what they can do."