News providers throughout the rich world are starting to charge for content on the web and mobile devices
This model worked well for a long time. But it has come unstuck in the internet era as readers have shifted their attention to other media, quickly followed by advertisers. “The audience is bigger than ever, if you include all platforms,” says Larry Kilman of the World Association of Newspapers. “It’s not an audience problem—it’s a revenue problem.” News providers throughout the rich world are urgently casting around for new models. They are starting to charge for content on the web and mobile devices, as well as pursuing non-traditional sources of revenue such as wine clubs or dating services. Some are being supported by philanthropy. Nobody yet knows which, if any, of these models will work, but it is clear that revenue from online advertising alone will not be enough to cover the costs of running a traditional news organisation. Government funding is also off the table as rich countries struggle to reduce their debts. In America any talk of government support for the country’s ailing newspapers ended when the Republicans retook control of the House in 2010. Subsidies would anyway merely postpone the inevitable.