Friday, January 22, 2010

Online Newspapers will charge

I’m an Internet Fan. Ever since Internet’s been made accessible, mobile and relatively affordable, my life’s been easier and convenient. Mainstream information such as international news and getting some facts straight about subjects as remote as Carcar Chicharon are literally just a click away. Internet changes people’s habits on acquiring information as well as it changes the usual time-consuming activities. One of which is changing the landscape of journalism, in particular reference to newspapers.

I’ve been reading newspapers ever since I was prep my mother said. Even though I only read the Comics strip of Nancy in Manila Bulletin, I found interest in getting my hands smudged with ink. It eventually progressed into reading headlines and lifestyle sections. Although business and the editorial sections weren’t my cup of tea, I still regarded newspapers as my alternative to books. But I stopped looking for newspapers roughly 7 years ago. It was in 2003 that I began to love everything online, including news.

At my first job, I worked as a Research Analyst in one of the leading local commercial banks in the country. I worked in the head office reporting to the AVP of Corporate Planning Division. One of my tasks, aside from the grueling budget and MIS work, was to read newspapers. My primary job was to be informed on what’s going on with the banking industry and other business ventures. I took notes on corporate merging, Central bank news, business statistics and industry trends. I used these to make daily and monthly economic business reports to be submitted to business heads and the board, who really don’t have the time to read. I must admit that I wished I was reading newspapers all day than accomplish other deliverables.

As part of my job I belonged to the very few who were given unlimited access to the internet. To cut costs in subscribing to six to seven major broadsheets per day, I was given access to internet, which made the news faster and cheaper to acquire. During quarter end, when financial statements of various banks are published, I had no choice but to subscribe to 7 major newspapers for two weeks in order to capture and collate all the printed FS. Based on the printed FS, I would make a report and submit it to the board. In those two weeks, my workstation would eventually look like a dumpsite or a newspaper recycling section. If people in the office needed newspapers, they knew where to get it. Imagine if I had to subscribe to 7 major newspapers every single day. That was why as far as those normal days were concerned, I treated online newspapers as gifts of technology.

I stuck through the habit. Now, I do not find the urge to buy news on print. I get my daily doze of local to international news online. It’s real time, accessible and very eco-friendly. I could jump to ten broadsheets in one day. I could also read glamorized journals and magazines without paying a hundred bucks. I get informed fast without contributing to pollution, egging to watch news on primetime schedule and wait for the mornings when newspapers would be delivered. My parents, who aren’t that internet-savvy, still subscribe to daily broadsheets every day. That’s understandable and I still find time to browse and sift through those whenever internet’s down and I’m tired to turn on the computer, which are very rare moments.

Online newspapers like other online publications are very empowering. For the readers, they could be informed 24/7 as the news happens. Journalists could update the news real time without the hassle of massive reprinting. Readers could also jump from one broadsheet to another, from local news to international. They don’t get their hands dirty, it doesn’t clog up space and they could benefit by viewing photos, videos and polls all in one site. I know I’m just one of the billions who embrace online newspapers. But the thought of future costs and online subscriptions have crossed my mind. I knew a time would come that online newspapers would have to generate revenues from readers and limit access based on subscription. With the recent recession and a lot of market migration, I can just imagine that newspapers are struggling to maintain their number of subscription. Customers would want to cut costs and people are becoming more modern. With financial struggles and statistically lower revenues, specialized journals have started to limit online viewing to paying customers. Newspapers are slowly following suit. This is expected. Not all better services are meant to be free.

NY TIMES, one of the international papers I read, would move to charge Web readers for 2011. They would follow the metered system like some of the major journal companies are doing across the globe. The Times Co. would offer free access to specific set of articles per month then charge users for excess. It might scare and drive readers away, but top global news sites like NYTIMES, are confident that their readers are loyal. After all, they pride themselves to be illustrious and if not the best, one of the best and widely recognized newspapers in the globe.

As I browse through Manilatimes.Net, one of the online news sites that I prefer, I would gladly accept the charge as long as it’s reasonably priced than pay to read news on print. In the end, going online would be helping the environment, getting information fast and being able to voice out comments on specific articles. Of course, the traditional print would still be there. This is a matter of choice and preference. But at some point, when culture of reading newspapers is beginning to shift, certain parties would have to think of ways to survive. I would understand and support the move to charge because after all it made reading news more convenient and fun for me.

Article: NY Times to charge web-readers in 2011

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