Quality journalism that’s now accessible to all – and for free
The South China Morning post has brought down its paywall, allowing people around the globe to access the greatest story of this century: the rise of China
Newspapers have long debated how best to financially negotiate the digital era. Some have decided to monetise online content through paywalls, others have opted to give away what they produce for no charge and there are those that are inclined towards a half-way approach. The South China Morning Post’s readers can now access the web and mobile editions of the paper for free. The strategy is a simple one: to grow and improve Asia’s leading media brand.
Removing the paywall obviously comes at a cost. But Jack Ma Yun, the executive chairman of Alibaba Group, which has acquired the South China Morning Post and its associated media assets, believes making content available for free is an essential part of adapting to the ever-changing media landscape. Paywalls restrict the number of people who visit a website, limiting the opportunities for expansion. Survival lies in bringing in a new audience.
But numbers alone are not a solution. There also has to be quality journalism and a reason for readers to click on an article. The SCMP prides itself on being a window on China for the world and a website that readers can access without having to subscribe makes that possible from most places. Continually striving to produce articles that are fair, balanced, insightful and well-written with a global perspective remains our goal.
Freeing up online content for all-comers, aiming to produce the best articles possible and being positioned like no other media organisation to report on China should be a winning combination. But nothing is guaranteed in an ever-changing media environment. Paywalls work for some companies and not for others. The few that prosper from the subscription model offer specialised and highly sought-after content. Still, there can be no guarantees with demands, circumstances and technology constantly evolving and companies have to always be ready to adapt.
The print edition of the SCMP, its ePaper and historic archives in PDF form will still be charged for. There will always be readers more comfortable with a product that they can keep and refer to in a leisurely manner. A media organisation with a 113-year history also has invaluable material for researchers and historians. But on the 20th anniversary of this company having a presence on the internet and under new ownership, a new era of free online content has dawned. The future lies in being a bridge between East and West and cultures, and reporting the best we can on the greatest story this century, China.