News Should Not Be Restricted

The Sydney Morning Herald has implemented a monthly charge for users to access articles on their web site. Only the first 30 articles are free. Under the current system, readers would pay up to $300 a year. This dollar value assumes such a news source is not substitutable. Or is it? There was talk of this being planned for quite a while. But it is still a massive shock to the loyal readers.

The good old SMH has kept a flow of revenue from advertisements for some time. That should be enough. Sometimes a pop up would grab our attention before being closed. A banner in the footer of the home page (that is an attempt at descriptive techie lingo) is all about American Express. Links on the right hand side promoted anything and everything. That should have been enough. Our favourite brands would have paid big bucks for exposure on a very popular online site.

Let's hope there is a very good reason for the SMH to suddenly restrict the site to subscriptions. A monthly payment is too much commitment. Of course they would appreciate the predictable pattern. Subscriptions would allow some forecasting of future readership. This system worked for papers. But the whole point of online information is that it would be available.

If people need information online, there is always another site to supply it cheaply. Say the SMH was used for breaking news headlines. Another news source like the ABC or independent site would have the same information. Opinionated commentaries are no longer the sole domain of SMH columnists. Will I end up subscribing to SMH to learn from the wisdom of those famous writers? Maybe. Or I could visit an independent site such as Mamamia.

Hang on a second. After I have been updated on the 411 (latest goss), you could even read it here. I am not trying to compete with The Sydney Morning Herald. I still can't get enough of their exclusive interviews and opinionated academics. But there are just so many free alternatives compared to $25 per month.

SMH, please be sustainable, not substitutable. I will stay loyal. But others may not.


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