Every industry has been affected in at least one way due to the COVID-19 pandemic. News organizations certainly are not alone in having to make difficult decisions.
What is happening now will surely impact the future of journalism, including what should be free and what will be behind a paywall.
Many news organizations have made their coronavirus-related coverage free for all by removing their paywall on those articles. This makes sense due to the increase in the number of people reading the news.
Professional organizations are a trusted source of information that can help disprove any false facts appearing on the internet, so by making their coronavirus coverage free, it makes it easier for people to access the truth. These organizations are also hoping that consistent viewers of COVID-19 coverage will turn into paid subscribers.
The Atlantic has seen results that reflect this. In the month of March, the magazine experienced an increase in page viewers and subscribers after it dropped its paywall on a collection of coronavirus coverage.
This idea is good in theory, but not everyone agrees that making this coverage free will lead to an increase in subscribers. Some might think it is actually bad for business, as there is a decrease in potential advertisers.
Both ends of the argument make valid points. By removing the paywall, news organizations are allowing people who may not have the funds for news subscriptions the information they may need to get through this pandemic.
There is a compromise that I see news organizations making as news due to COVID-19 occurs. Coronavirus coverage that should remain free are the articles explaining the data and that consists of information people should be following to keep safe and healthy.
Other articles that can be described as features on specific people, businesses or events can be put back behind the paywall. These situations may have been impacted by COVID-19, everything has and will continue to be, but they may not be essential for people to know in order to stay informed of the pandemic’s progression. Those interested in these topics may be persuaded to subscribe, even if only for a limited time.