Fee vs. Free: The Casualties

The debate at some news companies appears to be pretty heated, perhaps even nasty, on the topic of free vs. fee online business models. I recently received some correspondence from an online editor who had argued vociferously against a plan to make a newspaper website paid-access only. As a result of not backing down from the position that an all-fee news website was a bad idea, this person was let go by the company. This got me wondering if this is commonplace in the online news world these days. In this debate, viewpoints one way or the other tend to be strongly held. My generalized reading of the industry is that more often than not, it’s traditional news executives who espouse the Web for-fee model, while people on the online/new-media side support a continuation of free Web news content supported by advertising, along with developing selective paid content.

Is there a heated debate in your newsroom about fee vs. free? Has it led to terminations or resignations of staff? I’d like to know. Post to the Comments area at the end of this item. Or if you prefer, send me private e-mail at steve@poynter.org. (I might make this into more than a short Tidbits item in the future.)

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