Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Democracy Dies Behind Paywalls

 Democracy Dies Behind Paywalls - Atlantic [unpaywalled]- “The case for making journalism free—at least during the 2024 election…Paywalls create a two-tiered system: credible, fact-based information for people who are willing to pay for it, and murkier, less-reliable information for everyone else.

 Simply put, paywalls get in the way of informing the public, which is the mission of journalism. And they get in the way of the public being informed, which is the foundation of democracy. It is a terrible time for the press to be failing at reaching people, during an election in which democracy is on the line. There’s a simple, temporary solution: 

Publications should suspend their paywalls for all 2024 election coverage and all information that is beneficial to voters. Democracy does not die in darkness—it dies behind paywalls…In the pre-internet days, information wasn’t free—it just felt that way. Newsstands were everywhere, and you could buy a paper for a quarter. But that paper wasn’t just for you: 

After you read it at the coffee shop or on the train, you left it there for the next guy. The same was true for magazines. When I was the editor of Time, the publisher estimated that the “pass-along rate” of every issue was 10 to 15—that is, each magazine we sent out was read not only by the subscriber, but by 10 to 15 other people. 

In 1992, daily newspapers claimed a combined circulation of some 60 million; by 2022, while the nation had grown, that figure had fallen to 21 million. People want information to be free—and instantly available on their phone…

Digital-news consumers can be divided into three categories: a small, elite group that pays hundreds to thousands of dollars a year for high-end subscriptions; a slightly larger group of people with one to three news subscriptions; and the roughly 80 percent of Americans who will not or cannot pay for information. Some significant percentage of this latter category are what scholars call “passive” news consumers—people who do not seek out information, but wait for it to come to them, whether from their social feeds, from friends, or from a TV in an airport. Putting reliable information behind paywalls increases the likelihood that passive news consumers will receive bad information…

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