Shirky: Paywalls will change what users want from news sites

“It’s too early to know what behaviors the newly core users will reward or demand from their papers. They may start asking to see fewer or less intrusive ads than non-paying readers do. They may reward papers that make their comments section more conversational (as the Times has just done.) The most dramatic change, though, is that the paying users are almost certain to be more political, and more partisan, than the median reader. …

“For the moment at least, the most promising experiment in user support means forgoing mass in favor of passion; this may be the year where we see how papers figure out how to reward the people most committed to their long-term survival.”

"Newspapers, Paywalls, and Core Users," Clay Shirky

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  • robelroy

    “The most dramatic change, though, is that the paying users are almost certain to be more political, and more partisan, than the median reader. …”

    Shirky has this fundamentally wrong. Partisanship rises in lock-step with the more open a technology is. Radio spawned the televangelists and conservative talk radio. The cheapest newspapers like the New York Post are the most mindlessly conservative. Free weeklies like every single Independent are reflexively liberal. Free websites have not brought us balanced debate- The Drudge Report, Hufpo, Redstate, Big Government. Free news is often good, but its business model has historically been to cater to humanity’s cheapest intellectual drive- to reinforce the prejudices of its readers.

    When people are paying a good sum to actually be informed, and this is what true news-loving people really want: to be informed about the facts, the interpretation and then the other side’s view. In this, newspapers must be ecumenical. We will see the exact opposite of what Shirky says.