That great Dutch daily Trouw has a brief but significant piece up now: “Newspapers return to paid sites”. If you spend any other time on the ‘Net (other than poring over EuroSavant, that is!) you might be aware that there has already been talk of many American newspapers returning to some sort of pay-for-your-news format in a last bid to survive financially. Well, this piece (sourced to the Dutch news agency ANP) is mainly about a new study out of the Free University of Brussels, conducted among 87 Western European newspapers, which concludes that something similar is also in the works over here. Such papers have watched closely as leading publications such as the New York Times and the Financial Times a few years ago tried making themselves totally free once again, hoping to earn big with advertising, only to see that ad revenue go mainly to Google, where it did not instead shrink in absolute terms due to worsening economic conditions.
Mind, not a single paper is named here – it’s just a warning shot across the bow, so to speak. But while the message is interesting in itself, despite the lack of specifics, astute readers will recognize the direct relevance here to this very weblog. My policy continues to be that I review only freely-available on-line publications, so that any reader who wants to can click through to see the article(s) I am discussing him/herself. (The furthest concession I made in the past to any restrictions was covering papers that required initial free registration.) This news therefore seems somewhat ominous; I guess we’ll simply have to see what actually happens – i.e. which publications do decide to retreat behind a pay-wall – and then come up with a reaction from there.