ArticlePDF Available

The Culture of Free: Construct Explication and Democratic Ramifications for Readers' Willingness to Pay for Public Affairs News

Article

The Culture of Free: Construct Explication and Democratic Ramifications for Readers' Willingness to Pay for Public Affairs News

Abstract

The homogenization and commoditization of news have risen since the emergence of the Internet, but have sharply increased in recent years due to economic constraints on news organizations and journalists’ labor conditions. This article explores readers’ perceptions and attitudes toward the economic and informative value of online news in particular, and toward the Internet as a means of news dissemination in general. Drawing upon 50 in-depth interviews with respondents from Spain aged 18–65 years, we conceptualize the lack of readers’ inclinations to pay for digital news as a culture of free and explore its main dimensions. Specifically, the culture of free is a strong orientation to considering news as a public good that must be free of charge, rooted in customs/habits of free consumption on the Internet over decades, fueled by free competition, subtended by advertising, and a lack of interest in the news more generally. Despite the fact that the digital versions might be theoretically considered as inferior, we argue that both products (print vs online) are equally valuable (economically and informatively) and the only divergence lies in their format and thus in their price.
https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884920913436
Journalism
1 –17
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/1464884920913436
journals.sagepub.com/home/jou
The culture of free: Construct
explication and democratic
ramifications for readers’
willingness to pay for public
affairs news
Manuel Goyanes
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, España
Marton Demeter
National University of Public Service, Hungary
Laura de Grado
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, España
Abstract
The homogenization and commoditization of news have risen since the emergence of
the Internet, but have sharply increased in recent years due to economic constraints
on news organizations and journalists’ labor conditions. This article explores
readers’ perceptions and attitudes toward the economic and informative value of
online news in particular, and toward the Internet as a means of news dissemination
in general. Drawing upon 50 in-depth interviews with respondents from Spain aged
18–65 years, we conceptualize the lack of readers’ inclinations to pay for digital news
as a culture of free and explore its main dimensions. Specifically, the culture of free
is a strong orientation to considering news as a public good that must be free of
charge, rooted in customs/habits of free consumption on the Internet over decades,
fueled by free competition, subtended by advertising, and a lack of interest in the
news more generally. Despite the fact that the digital versions might be theoretically
considered as inferior, we argue that both products (print vs online) are equally
Corresponding author:
Manuel Goyanes, Departamento de Comunicación, Facultad de Humanidades, Comunicación y
Documentación, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Calle Madrid, 133. 28903 Getafe, Madrid, España.
Email: mgoyanes@hum.uc3m.es
913436JOU0010.1177/1464884920913436JournalismGoyanes et al.
research-article2020
Original Article
2 Journalism 00(0)
valuable (economically and informatively) and the only divergence lies in their format
and thus in their price.
Keywords
Business model, culture of free, free competition, free news consumption, online
news, public good
Introduction
The emergence of the Internet has transformed the news production process of journal-
ists, the news consumption habits of audiences, as well as the flux, presence, and reach
of news itself (Antunovic et al., 2018; Hermida, 2010). Journalists, audiences, and news
corporations are trying to adapt their skills, preferences, and organizational structures to
respond to the myriad of digital challenges that have affected their core activities
(Aitamurto and Lewis, 2013). Online news, increasingly omnipresent, ambient, and
commoditized, has largely lost its value, something that directly affects the revenue mod-
els of most news organizations (Cawley, 2018). In this context, there is a growing con-
cern among media managers about audiences’ perceptions and attitudes toward the
pecuniary and journalistic evaluations of digital news providers. Readers’ understanding
and attitudes toward online news in a context of commoditized offer are thus the focus of
this study.
This article explores how news audiences respond to the increasing commoditization
and homogenization of online news, and how their willingness to pay for media com-
modities is shaped in an economic culture of free consumption. Specifically, through 50
in-depth interviews with Spanish news consumers, we try to elucidate audience attitudes
toward online news consumption, the role of the Internet as a means of news dissemina-
tion and audiences’ economic and journalistic evaluations of digital information. Our
findings reveal a general inclination to perceive online news as a product and news
organizations as a service with limited or no economic value. We conceptualize this lack
of value as the manifestation of a culture of free and explore its main dimensions: news
as a public good, customs/habits of free consumption, free competition supported by
advertising revenue models, and lack of interest in news more generally.
It is important to note that we have carefully differentiated our conceptualization from
earlier studies on culture and free consumption, typically referred as free culture (Lessig,
2006). Our theorization lays on both conceptual distinctions vis-à-vis the culture of free
and empirical data, suggesting that the culture of free is unambiguously related to read-
ers’ economic value perceptions of news in a context of commoditization and homogeni-
zation of the range of options available online. From a theoretical perspective, we use the
concept of the culture of free in its most basic meaning: the view held by an ever broader
segment of the population that the consumption of news should be free. Therefore, the
culture of free is not portrayed here from an economic or legal point of view. We under-
stand the culture of free as a sociological construct unambiguously related to the position
of news consumption in contemporary society, along with the journalistic and pecuniary
Goyanes et al. 3
value ascribed to it by audiences. This study contributes to a growing body of scholar-
ships on how readers make sense of online news (Costera-Meijer and Groot-Kormelink,
2015), considering its impact on economic value assessments.
The homogenization and commoditization of online news
and their impact on readers’ willingness to pay
This study aims to understand readers’ attitudes and economic value perceptions of
online news in a commoditized and homogenized context. In particular, we argue that
both the homogenization and the commoditization of news play a fundamental role in
explaining why online news has lost its economic and informative value in the eyes of
audiences, in combination with the new opportunities and challenges brought by the
Internet and digital platforms. We define news commoditization as the process whereby
news services are transformed from ‘products which meet individual and social needs
into products whose value is set by what they can bring into marketplace’ (Mosco, 2009:
132). In market terms, to commoditize something is simply to turn it into an object for
sale, to place a monetary value on it.
Under this theoretical conceptualization, the news is generally a subsidized commod-
ity (in online newspapers especially), given that readers generally pay little or nothing
directly. In turn, third parties (mostly advertisers) are a crucial source of income, mean-
ing that the definition of quality is ‘based on popularity more profitable than one based
on less widely shared professional or craft standards’ (McManus, 1992: 790). This holds
true especially for online news, but not for print newspaper subscriptions, which are still
substantial. In fact, for most news organizations, readers’ print payments are the most
important source of revenue. Despite this, it can still be assumed that the production of
high-quality and valuable news that is only consumed by a small number of readers is
highly inefficient for news organizations, as advertisement rates are also rather low for
such services. The commoditization of news has therefore important implications for the
practice and economics of journalism that can be reflected, especially, in commercial
pressures, journalists’ reporting on societal inequalities (McManus, 1992), and loss of its
pecuniary value (Goyanes, 2014).
Relatedly, the burgeoning literature on news homogenization mainly addresses the
effects that non-unique – and thus potentially substitutable (online news) – products
might have on demand when the price is above zero (Chyi, 2005; Goyanes, 2015;
Picard, 2009). According to Picard (2009), both online and print news are homogeneous
products and thus non-unique. This means that, in a context of growing competition in
the news business, the online product is fully and easily substitutable (Chyi, 2005),
which inevitably decreases the value (economic and also journalistic) that readers
assign to the news offer.
The commoditization and homogenization of news are also situated in the context of
the Internet, a technology that substantially contributes to the economic devaluation of
news production, due to the supposedly free market of communication commodities. The
history of the Internet is a well-known, unified, and extensively studied area of research
with two opposing ‘champs’ related to its social consequences. The first was held by the
4 Journalism 00(0)
so-called technology-utopists like Negroponte (1995) or Gilder (1994). They considered
the Internet as a source of digital democracy, an anti-authoritarian phenomenon of the
technology of freedom. For them, the Internet allowed for the emergence of a less cen-
tralized, less controlled world with extensive civil participation through free and open
access. However, other, more dystopian visions assumed that the Internet is and will be
dominated by business interests, in which ‘a handful of giant multimedia corporations
extended their reach over a market-driven, privatized, e-commerce and advertiser-
financed system’ (Hardy, 2014: 109).
It appears that historical facts are more likely to support the second, dystopian vision.
Indeed, radical critics of the neoliberal attitude claim that ‘with the extensive commer-
cialization of the Internet in the 90s, this medium has become a state-sponsored com-
mercial system’ (Curran and Seaton, 2010: 258). The Internet has also produced serious
changes in the assessment of the economic value of products in general, and on the
economic value of media content and news production in particular. Companies involved
in the production chain (Van der Wurff, 2012) became extremely differentiated with
many separate fields of activities, ranging from production to marketing. A vertical dis-
integration also occurs whereby even consumers (the audience) are involved, as they can
modify, share, and comment on news products via their own social networks (Benton,
2011). In this context, as suggested by Van der Wurff (2012), it is extremely difficult to
ascertain the true economic value of any given news content.
Another important effect of the Internet is that, besides the significant production
costs of news content, an extremely high number of customers could share the initial
costs by minimal expenditure. Considering millions of customers in the case of an online
platform, audiences might think that their share in the costs of production converges to
zero (Van der Wurff, 2012). Moreover, it is almost impossible or at least difficult to
exclude non-payers from consuming news products. This does not only mean that exclu-
sion appears to run contrary to the general ethos of the Internet (Anderson, 2009): where
publishers implement paywalls, original subscribers would share the content on different
platforms where news content becomes accessible to non-subscribers as well (Bakker
and Scholten, 2009). Finally, it is generally held that
news is not scarce and therefore cannot be sold on markets like standard economic goods.
Together, these characteristics imply that it is difficult for firms to produce news as a commercial
product that is sold at a profitable price to users. (Van der Wurff, 2012: 236)
In a Marxist framework, both audiences and news content become commodities,
meaning that their use value has been transformed into exchange value, that is, ‘things
valued for their use into marketable products that are valued for what they can bring in
exchange’ (Mosco, 2009: 2). Once commodities circulate with a price, they attain
exchange value, with money serving as their universal equivalent (Marx, 1983 [1867]:
93). Moreover, as mentioned earlier, commoditization went hand in hand with the
homogenization of news content. According to Anderson (2009), despite an abundance
of different perspectives, sources, and representations, audiences are flooded with the
very same ready-made news product. Of course, there is a variety of choices of informa-
tion and news content, but to get unique or at least alternative media content, audiences
Goyanes et al. 5
have to make additional efforts, which generally leads to the consumption of mainstream
news (Van der Wurff, 2012).
In the absence of a real competition where a plural market provides different prod-
ucts with different economic values, audiences are facing an oligopolistic market
(Wasko et al., 2014) where the same products are offered for minimal prices and, ulti-
mately, for free (Shapiro and Varian, 1999). However, the old saying that there is no
such thing as a free lunch applies just as inexorably to the ‘free’ consumption of media
content in the network economy. Consumers pay a great amount of money for related
services like Internet access or devices like smartphones and notebooks which they can
use to consume media content (Anderson, 2009; Chasney, 2015). As a consequence,
audiences might assume that, through buying access to the Internet and the corre-
sponding apparatus, they have already paid for the content as well. Thus, the oligopo-
listic nature of the market that entails homogenization, commoditization, and the
absence of real competition results in a situation where the attributed economic value
of media content in general, and news media in particular, is ever decreasing, converg-
ing toward zero.
Previous studies on news consumption in the culture
of free
Our conception of the culture of free has been preceded and supported by economic
analyses dealing with ‘freeconomics’ (Anderson, 2009: 13), ‘information economy’,
‘new economy’, or ‘network economy’ (Shapiro and Varian, 1999). These economic
theories are built on the idea that, in the digital age, information inevitably becomes
free after the first production in both cost and price. In other words, the production of
information goods involves high fixed costs but low marginal costs (Shapiro and
Varian, 1999: 10). The fixed costs include the creation, the packaging, the reproduction
and the distribution of news, plus the marketing, and sales costs (Van der Wurff, 2012:
232), while the further distribution of news content via audience sharing is virtually
costless. Moreover, ‘bits economy’ (Anderson, 2009), as opposed to the economy of
the classical material world, is deflationary, meaning that products become cheaper
and cheaper and, supposedly, prices ultimately converge to zero. Thus, in a free culture
(Lessig, 2006), consumers, including media consumers formerly known as audiences
(Garnham, 2000), expect to get free goods in many forms like free samples, free trials,
free complementary goods, free media content, and all the free products of a ‘gift
economy’ (Anderson, 2009).
Media economists have also observed that there are many reasons why, in digital
economies, there is no use in fighting against the culture of free. First, in classical eco-
nomic terms, there is an extremely fast-growing supply while demand remains largely
stable. Second, consumers tend not to value digital content since it is immaterial. Third,
ubiquitous access to digital content, including digital news, makes it easier to download
and share than to buy it in any material form. Finally,
the generation that has grown up with broadband has digital economics somehow wired into
their DNA. Whether they’ve ever heard of near-zero marginal cost or not, they intuitively
6 Journalism 00(0)
understand it. That’s why they’re either indifferent or hostile to copyright. They just don’t see
the point. (Anderson, 2009: 115)
Reception studies that are part of media audience studies analyze how media con-
sumption itself could be related to different patterns of social action or identity formation
(Garnham, 2000). In this regard, the Internet is generally considered as a medium propa-
gating a democratic ideal. Thus, media consumption trends are closely interwoven with
the structure of the predominant medium (the Internet) and the corresponding ethos
(democracy) that could lead to a distinct culture (the culture of free). Accordingly, while
most traditional media analyses concentrate on the effects of media on audiences, ethno-
graphical studies, and gratification or demand models have begun to consider the audi-
ence as an active, embedded community of consumers that view media content as a
commodity (Garnham, 2000).
In this context, media products and especially news media could be considered as a
public good that must be provided in the same amount to all affected consumers (Varian,
2014: 714). Perfect non-rivalry in consumption and perfect non-excludability of non-
paying customers are the defining characteristics of a pure public good (Van der Wurff,
2012), just like the feature of media content that it is not used up in consumption. As
many analysts have demonstrated, ‘the economic implications of the public good aspect
of media content are far-reaching, affecting the budgeting decisions, distribution strate-
gies, and pricing policies of media companies’ (Napoli, 2003: 2). In most cases, a public
good is sponsored or fully financed by the government. Arguments in favor of state-
sponsored news production refer to the fact that news is a merit good, meaning that
consumers might systematically underestimate the value of news and thus be less willing
to pay for it since they are not aware of its true value. ‘In common parlance, these are
products that are “good” for you, even though we might not particularly like them.
Education is a frequently mentioned example of a merit good’ (Van der Wurff, 2012:
235). This conceptualization of news as a public good could also help us to understand
why audiences in a culture of free avoid paying for media productions.
Method
The Spanish case
The Spanish media landscape has several features that make it a clear example of the
implementation of a media culture conceptualized in this paper as the culture of free.
First, compared with other European countries, Spain has always had a relatively small
newspaper readership, while news media moved relatively quickly online. The fact that
Spanish news consumers were not used to paying (low number of subscriptions/capita)
for print news might also impact their perception of (online) news as free. In addition, the
printed newspaper readership was traditionally very low, while the free press had remark-
able commercial strength (Salaverría, 2007).
According to Newman et al. (2019), only 10 percent of the Spanish audience is willing
to pay for online news, slightly below the global average (11%). Eighty-five percent of
the audience consumes online news (including news offered through social media sites).
Goyanes et al. 7
In general, the perceived extent of poor journalism is much higher (68%) than the global
average (55%) and the highest in Europe. Seventy-seven percent of news consumers in
Spain are worried about news bias (compared with the global average of 59%), while
53 percent of news consumers regularly encounter advertisements that look like news. In
short, the Spanish media landscape is a relatively open market of media goods where the
audience prefers free content, and also perceives serious biases regarding the accuracy
and legitimacy of news content.
Participants, interview guide, and data analysis
We conducted in-depth interviews with 50 Spanish digital news consumers. The semi-
structured interviews were carried out between December 2018 and May 2019. We used
purposive sampling; specifically, maximum variety sampling. Following Patton (2002),
participants were chosen to reflect a large diversity in information-rich cases relevant to
the research interest: different genders, ages, political orientations, incomes, and level of
education. As a consequence, our interviewees represent a great heterogeneity in their
profiles (see Table 1), both in the use of digital technologies for news consumption and
in their attitudes toward and perceptions of the value of online information. Men and
women were equally represented in the sample, 50 percent each. The age of participants
ranged from 22 to 55, although most were between 30 and 40 years old. Participants’
level of education included high school graduate or less (n = 16), college career (n = 16),
and postgraduate studies (n = 18).
Given the regional diversity of selected participants, some interviews were conducted
via Skype (n = 20) and telephone (n = 20), including participants from Galicia, Murcia,
Basque Country, Andalusia, Valencia, and Catalonia. The rest of the participants (n = 10)
were from Madrid and were interviewed face to face. The evidence gathered from Skype,
telephone, and face-to-face interviews did not differ much in their clarity, originality,
depth, and duration. In general, interviews lasted between 50 and 70 minutes, and they
were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim (120 pages) by the third author and
eventually codified and analyzed by the first one.
The interview guide addressed three topic areas. The first part concerned participants’
use, types, and means to access digital news. Questions addressed how participants consume
Table 1. Sample description.
Participants Gender Age cohorts Education Type of interview
50 50% male
(n = 25)
20–30 (n = 7) Less than high school
graduate (n = 25)
Skype (N = 20)
50% female
(n = 25)
30–40 (n = 8) High school graduate
(n = 10)
Telephone
(N = 20)
30–40 (n = 15) Some college, college and
postgraduate studies (n = 15)
Face-to-face
(N = 10)
40–50 (n = 15)
40–50 (n = 5)
8 Journalism 00(0)
digital news, the main platforms for news access and consumption, their perception about
their knowledge of current affairs and politics, and their daily media diet. This initial part of
the interview was oriented to introduce and familiarize participants with the aim of the
study. Therefore, we aimed to understand how readers consume news contents and how the
process of news consumption shapes both their perspectives on the informative value of
news and their opinions toward the main platforms for news access. By problematizing how
respondents obtain digital information about current events and politics, we aim to get
empirical evidence on how news consumers value the relevance and significance of news in
the digital environment.
The second part of the interview guide specifically concentrated on descriptions of
participants’ attitudes toward digital news and their perceptions about the informative
value of online content: questions addressed how news users frame the journalistic value
of online news, their perceptions about the features that make a news piece distinctive,
and their views on the similarity/difference (and thus homogenization) of news available
online. Finally, the third part focused on the role of the Internet in framing participants’
understandings of the economic value of news, respondents’ perceptions on the informa-
tive value of news depending on the distribution channel (print vs online), and the rea-
sons for paying for digital information or not. Specifically, this final section asked
respondents for their views on the economic price of news on the Internet, their willing-
ness to pay for digital news, and how they are affected by the Internet to economically
value digital information.
All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. We then conducted a thematic
analysis, which posits ‘a method for identifying, analyzing and reporting patterns
(themes) within data’ (Braun and Clarke, 2006: 79). The analytic procedure proposed by
Braun and Clarke (2006) – comprising six phases that allow for the systematization and
transparency of the coding and analysis process – was followed. Codes and thematic
maps were discussed with two independent researchers, which then informed the refine-
ment of themes, their definition, and naming. The thematic analysis allowed us to iden-
tify shared patterns across the statements of various interviewees centered around our
three research interests, while leaving us the flexibility to identify other emerging themes.
The next section discusses the key findings.
Results
General news consumption patterns and perceptions of digital news
quality
Most of our respondents were digital news consumers who rely on a myriad of news
outlets and social media platforms to be informed about current events and politics. The
most frequently cited digital news outlets were national newspapers like ElPaís.es,
ElMundo.es, or local news organizations such as La Vanguardia or El Periódico in
Catalonia, La Voz de Galicia in Galicia, or El Correo in the Basque Country. In relation
to social media platforms, most of our participants consume or read digital news on plat-
forms, primarily Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Some of our interviewees also
emphasized that despite the fact that they do not consider social media as information
Goyanes et al. 9
platforms, they ‘encounter’ or ‘find’ news there as a by-product of using these platforms,
as the following quotes illustrate:
I don’t usually search for the news in any newspaper, I find them in my social networks. (P4)
I don’t need to search for news because they already appear on Facebook; on Instagram,
everyone posts them. And if something important happens, they send me messages. I don’t look
for news unless I see something very important. (P48)
By directly consuming news both online and offline, most of our participants held the
perception that they were generally well-informed about current events and politics.
However, many others acknowledged that they were not fully informed: ‘I’m not really
well informed, so I should research much more’, lamented Xavier, a college sophomore.
The key reason for not being fully informed is because many participants are not ‘inter-
ested’ in news or more simply because they are ‘busy’, as Magdalena, a factory worker,
explained: ‘I spend a lot of time working and I have other activities’. Moreover, some of
our respondents said that they consume digital news while doing other activities. Thus,
they do not dedicate a specific, exclusive time to finding out about the latest news, but
take advantage of ‘free’ moments in their daily routine. Hector, a university sophomore,
explained it as follows: ‘I usually search for news with my phone, and it’s usually on the
underground’. While eating breakfast, eating lunch, riding on the underground or in
class, many of our respondents consume or are accidentally exposed to digital news,
emphasizing the myriad of circumstances and conditions that whereby they can find
information about public affairs and politics.
Generally, participants consume written news or opinion articles, followed by online
videos and reports. In addition, they generally hold a positive perception about the jour-
nalistic value, in terms of quality, of Spanish news outlets: ‘The truth is that I value digi-
tal news very highly’, explained Toni, a public-sector employee. Echoing this perception,
Rosa, a senior lawyer, claimed that: ‘digital news is good, very good’. However, at the
same time, many participants were concerned about the potential damage caused to dem-
ocratic societies by ‘fake news’, as the following quotes illustrate:
There are a lot of unfounded rumors and you don’t know if a lot of information is wrong. We’ve
got more information than before, but a lot is false. (P3)
There is a lot of fake information. It’s really quick to get to information and that makes us to get
inform badly and to believe everything we read. (P50)
The culture of free
To problematize the lack of economic value of news for readers, we developed the cul-
ture of free conceptualization. The culture of free is the theoretical transformation, based
on an empirical examination, of users’ limited inclination to pay for digital news. This is
underpinned by the perception that news is a public good that must be free of charge,
rooted in customs/habits of free digital consumption over decades. Other factors driving
this tendency are free competition subtended by advertising revenue models and a lack
10 Journalism 00(0)
of interest in news more generally. These four tacit assumptions about digital news’ lack
of economic value are, however, nuanced by participant perceptions of the economics of
online news and journalists’ salary needs.
Although our respondents generally emphasized their lack of willingness to pay for
online news, they fully understood news organizations’ legitimate economic demands
and thus their potential inclination to implement paywalls in the future. Therefore, inter-
viewees were aware of the economic challenges of news organizations in monetizing
digital contents, but the mechanisms to implement this and potential payment are both
unknown and neglected. Sergio, a professional musician, reflected on the challenges of
news organizations in monetizing digital contents in the following terms: ‘Digital news
has an economic value, but what I don’t know is how newspapers will get their benefits
if they make them free’ (P17). Echoing Sergio, Paulo, an industrial worker, suggested
that despite the fact that he is not willing to pay for news, journalists need to get paid: ‘I
don’t give news economic value, I suppose it has value because the people who make it
have to get paid, but not much’ (P48).
In this regard, almost none of our respondents had a digital subscription to an online
newspaper and openly disclosed their reluctance to do so in the future. ‘The truth is that
I don’t pay for digital news, nor do I think I’ll ever pay’, exclaimed David, an experi-
enced plumber. This attitude of considering news as a product and news organizations as
a service with limited or no economic value was held by most of our respondents, and we
conceptualize this orientation as the manifestation of a culture of free. The culture of free
integrates four main dimensions, the first one being a general inclination to consider
news a public good which must hence be free of charge when accessed digitally.
News as a public good. Many of our respondents seemed to believe that to establish a
healthy democracy, people ‘must be informed’, which they generally took to mean, in the
words of Pablo, a store employee, that ‘we, as a society, have to have free access to digi-
tal news’. Corroborating Pablo’s perspective, Juliana reflected on the capital importance
of free news as a right to be fully informed:
News on the Internet should be free because everyone should be informed of what is happening
around us. The fact of being educated and informed is something really important and everyone
needs to do that throughout his life. I think paying for news does not help in establishing a
democratic society. (P8)
In short, news as a public good, for many of our participants, means that free access and
consumption is crucial to maintain a democratic society, and thus, as any constitutional
right, it should be protected and if possible, provided for free.
Related to the consideration of news as a public good, many of our respondents
seemed to link free news consumption online to the opportunity to reduce societal ine-
qualities. Rosa María, a bus driver, believed that ‘news on the Internet should be availa-
ble to everyone. Whether you have more money or less, you could have more information’
(P40). In addition, some respondents introduced the idea that they already pay ‘for
Internet access’ and ‘many other digital things’ and thus assumed that their economic
contribution to sustain the business of news is indirectly met. Therefore, news as a public
Goyanes et al. 11
good also includes a public attitude that free news access reduces societal inequalities, in
a context where the payment for Internet services is seen as an indirect contribution to
maintaining a flow of free news.
Customs/habits of free consumption. The second dimension of the culture of free is related
to newsreaders’ customs and habits of free digital consumption. Specifically, many of
our interviewees cited ‘the difficulties’, ‘challenges’, and ‘nonsense’ of inviting readers
to pay for digital news after decades of free and unlimited access to online information.
Therefore, the rationale behind users’ unwillingness to pay for digital news is the
ingrained habit of free consumption. Based on a customary belief/tradition, respondents
assume that news is a free product and therefore take for granted and normalize its lack
of economic value, as expressed by the following interviewees:
People don’t pay for digital news because they are free, it’s a habit. (P2)
We are so used to get free digital information that now is pointless to ask us to pay. (P31)
As they always have been free [news], for what reason are you going to pay? (P47)
Free competition supported by advertising revenue models. Heavily linked to users’ customs
and habits of free access and consumption is the growing journalistic competition of
news organizations that base their revenue models on advertising support. In this regard,
the reluctance of many participants to pay for digital news is due to the myriad of ‘free
digital alternatives’ that provide a reliable supply of news that does not compel readers
to make an economic transaction and which is thus supported by advertising income.
Most of our interviewees believed that this business model is a ‘good idea’ or ‘very much
adapted to their news needs and wants’ (P1), as it allows them to be fully informed of current
events and politics without them having to make any economic transaction. Eduardo, a
school teacher, reflected on the multiple free media choices to be digitally informed, includ-
ing ‘main TV channels’ in a direct way: ‘People don’t want to pay for digital information
because we have many free alternatives’ (P7). Likewise, Alba, a bartender, mentioned the
interchangeability of digital newspapers and thus her lack of loyalty: ‘I don’t care which
newspaper I read, I’m sure there’s always another one that will inform me for free’ (P24).
Despite this reluctance to pay for digital information due to the free alternatives on the
Internet and traditional media, our respondents were aware that news organizations’
source of income is based on selling their audiences to potential advertisers. ‘Well, you
don’t have to pay but you have to close many ads sometimes’, Mario, a young hair-
dresser, ironized. In addition, many respondents believed that the free business model-
based advertising support allows a good equilibrium between news organizations’
economic needs and audiences’ information requirements. In general, respondents
framed these contrary objectives as a fair trade-off: ‘I believe that with advertising, a
reasonable balance is achieved’, explained Rocio, an experienced architect.
Lack of interest in news. Finally, many respondents’ reluctance to pay for digital news is
the ultimate consequence of their lack of interest in current events and politics or, more
12 Journalism 00(0)
generally, in news. They generally justify this lack of interest with the argument that
news, despite having an intrinsic economic value, is a fully dispensable product. There-
fore, willingness to pay for online news is only triggered when respondents use of digital
outlets very intensively or when they need news contents for a specific and relevant
purpose (to be thoroughly informed, for work-related issues, to have access to relevant
and reliable information that they might not get otherwise, etc.). However, this disposi-
tion to pay for online news is, to a great extent, moderated by economic constraints/daily
budget and the prices of digital newspapers. These issues were raised by two of our
respondents: ‘Currently, I have a limited budget and I wouldn’t invest it in one of the
newspapers I read’ (P17), ‘I would pay if the information interested me and it also
depends on the price’ (P28). Therefore, the final dimension of the free culture is derived
from users’ interest in and use of news, as the following respondents acknowledged:
I wouldn’t pay anything now because I don’t have great use. But maybe in the future, if I think
it’s a thing I need, I would pay for it. (P5)
Maybe I wouldn’t always pay, but I would do it when I would need to find out about a specific
topic. (P14)
I wouldn’t pay at the moment, but if it was information that I need for sure, for job issues or a
very specific topic, then, maybe yes. (P26)
Economic value perceptions between the print and online news
Our participants held a variety of perceptions regarding the potential economic value of
print versus digital news. Thus, our evidence reflects the multiple – and sometimes con-
tradictory – views that readers might have when evaluating the print and online news
options, both separately and in combination. In general, most of our participants seemed
to believe that both the print and online products were the same or very similar and drew
conclusions on their economic perceptions accordingly. Our evidence suggests that
respondents assumed that there is a little divergence between the two products, and that
the only difference lies in the format for news dissemination itself (paper vs online). As
a result, the economic value for news remains the same, regardless how it is published,
as the following quotes illustrate:
The value for me is the same, although right now I read a digital newspaper or an already
printed one, for me, they will say the same and the value is going to be the same. But yes, I
prefer not paying, so I will read the digital one. (P15)
My opinion doesn’t change. It seems to me just as true one thing and the other. (P19)
Internet doesn’t affect me; I value it in the same way as the printed one. (P21)
The same, it doesn’t change. I prefer it on paper because it’s more comfortable for me, but it’s
the same. (P23)
Goyanes et al. 13
I believe that the value doesn’t change, I don’t perceive it as having less value because of the
simple fact of being free or easy to access. (P28)
However, other participants’ perceptions favored online news because they are ‘free
of charge’ with respect to the offline product or simply because they are ‘constantly
updated’. However, this divergence in the nature of the online and print products does
not imply a change in its informative and economic value, since the product remains the
same, despite the difference in format, as the following respondent acknowledges: ‘In
terms of informative value, I think they are the same, but the difference is that digital
news can be updated and, moreover, it is free’. In fact, for some respondents, this con-
stant updating of online content was a decisive factor in justifying their belief that digital
news is a more valuable product than news in print. Two of our respondents put it in the
following terms:
For me it has a lot of value, even sometimes more than the news on television or the press. You
have to think that many things suddenly happen and if being a digital medium, you can edit and
update. On television, if at midday something happens or in the afternoon, you don’t find out
until the night or if it’s press just the same, until the next day you don’t find out. I think it’s a
way to be updated at the moment. (P30)
I think it’s the fastest way to get the information, so I value that, it saves me time. (P39)
However, for others, the print product still remains the more credible and serious
format for news consumption. Therefore, despite the proliferation of free digital com-
petitors, for some of our interviewees, print newspapers still maintain some of their aura
of credibility and veracity, especially compared with the non-filtered digital space.
Roberto, a senior secretary of a multinational company, explained it in the following
terms: ‘Unconsciously, I give more credibility to print newspapers. I don’t know why, it’s
automatic. If you think about it, maybe they don’t have it, but unconsciously it’s like that’
(P41). Likewise, Florinda, a dressmaker enthusiast, emphasized the non-filtered nature
of digital news and thus the possibility of encountering low-quality content:
It is true that as it is on paper, you already think that it is more serious, it’s like it goes through
a filter, not like on the Internet. On the Internet, there is no filter, and you can find nonsense.
(P46)
Discussion
The homogenization and commoditization of the information business have triggered
deep changes in the economics of online news and journalists’ labor conditions (Picard,
2009). The similarity and non-unique nature of most of the news services challenge
readers’ value assessments of digital contents, diminishing, and neglecting future eco-
nomic transactions for such services (Goyanes et al., 2018). In a context of ambient
journalism (Hermida, 2010), growing competition in the industry, and free digital news
services, readers’ have a broad palette of choices to design their media repertoires and
14 Journalism 00(0)
be informed about current affairs and politics. Earlier studies on the culture of free
(Anderson, 2009; Lessig, 2006) concentrate mostly on either the deflationary nature of
the Internet economy or the public good approach to news content. In both cases, the
tendencies toward free news consumption derive from the features of the so-called free
economics where the audience is well aware of the fact that they have to pay for the
content in different ways (i.e. Internet subscription fee, ads, etc.). Drawing upon 50 in-
depth interviews with Spanish news readers, our findings provide several interrelated
contributions on this line of inquiry.
First, a raw interpretation of results might point to challenging findings in relation to
readers’ quality assessments of online news and willingness to pay. As a consequence of
the culture of free, audiences’ evaluations of news production do not correlate with their
willingness to pay for them. This is the first meaning of ‘free’ in our culture of free con-
ceptualization. As opposed with the claims of classical economic theories, high-quality
assessment does not go hand in hand with an increased need since, in the case of online
news, the products can be endlessly reproduced and shared. The fact that most partici-
pants were reluctant to pay for news suggests that the economic value of news is not
aligned with readers’ journalistic value perceptions. However, our findings should be
framed in a market situation in which most of online news is offered for free, and thus, it
is rational that readers hold positive evaluations when they receive a good range of
choices for no charge.
Second, our conception of the culture of free combines both economic (Anderson,
2009; Shapiro and Varian, 1999) and cultural elements (Lessig, 2006), and is built on a
thorough empirical analysis on audience attitudes toward the economic value of online
information and the Internet as a means of news dissemination. In the culture of free,
audiences are conscious of both the features of free economics on the media market and
are socialized to take the free consumption of media goods for granted, meaning that
they cannot be easily replaced by subscription-based models. Hence, our theoretical con-
tribution emphasizes that besides standard marketing strategies (free trial, free comple-
mentary goods, etc.) that are parts of freeconomics (Anderson, 2009), audiences assume
online news to be a public good that should be provided for free, something which they
believe reduces societal inequalities. In the culture of free, media news is similar to clean
air or street lighting: goods from which everyone can benefit regardless of the extent to
which they participated in financing them.
Moreover, the culture of free has a third aspect that is not formally considered in ear-
lier approaches to free culture (Lessig, 2006), namely, that news consumption, instead of
being a conscious process of information gathering, becomes a ‘free’ time activity, con-
ducted typically during commutes or other empty phases of the day, generally aimed at
passing the time. Interviewees tend to consider news as a means for enjoying their free
time, generally viewing news consumption as a leisure time activity rather than some-
thing connected with their political or civic engagement. In addition, the ubiquitous
nature of news, especially through social media, enables readers to access news ‘inciden-
tally’, that is, a by-product of using these platforms (Boczkowski et al., 2018). As a
result, in the culture of free, news production is valued in the way air is: citizens both
appreciate and consume it without consciously considering its economic value until it is
really sold. This devaluation of news from being a serious pursuit to mere entertainment,
Goyanes et al. 15
an alternative to boredom, or something that is accidentally consumed, leads also to the
significant devaluation of its economic value and the manifestation of the culture of free
on the Internet.
Finally, we have also found that in the culture of free, audiences are aware of com-
mercialization and they know that there is no such a thing as a free lunch (Anderson,
2009). In many cases, audiences in a culture of free feel that they are contributing to
maintaining the news business through direct advertisements, by providing data or even
by paying for the Internet service itself. It is noteworthy, however, that the low economic
value does not necessarily align with low journalistic or information value: audiences
may simultaneously hold the views that, on one hand, news is a public good and should
be provided free of charge (especially on the Internet), while also maintaining, on the
other hand, that the news content they actually consume is quality journalism.
In short, we define the culture of free as a strong orientation to consider news as a
public good that must be free of charge. This is due to customs/habits of free consump-
tion on the Internet over decades, a model which is fueled by free competition, advertis-
ing revenue models, or a general lack of interest in the news. The culture of free thus
comprises four dimensions that seek to capture readers’ perceptions on the economic
value of news in a context of commoditization and homogenization of online news ser-
vices (Mosco, 2009); in brief, these four dimensions are as follows: (1) online news as a
public good, (2) readers’ habits of consuming news for free, (3) free competition, and (4)
a lack of interest in news combined with the assumption that consuming news is an activ-
ity to be pursued in one’s free time.
In addition, with the concept of the culture of free, we contribute to a better under-
standing of the economics of online news, suggesting that beyond the homogenization
and commoditization of online content, readers’ perception of digital news as a public
good challenges the rational theorizations of media economists. Therefore, what really
matters in shaping readers’ value assessments of news – more than the increasing uni-
formity of online news – is their strong orientation to considering news as a public good
that must be free of charge. That is the main factor in explaining readers’ lack of willing-
ness to pay in combination with their habits and free news alternatives. Unfortunately, in
most studies on willingness (or rather unwillingness) to pay, this explanatory variable
has not been introduced in the analysis or discussed further.
Similarly, despite the many reasons discussed that frame online news as an inferior
good (Chyi and Yang, 2009), such as the supposedly unpleasant experience associated
with reading texts online, online newspaper design, and quality assessments, our find-
ings suggest that readers rate print and online products as being of equal or very similar
value. According to the responses we have collected, most participants seem to believe
that both products offer the same content and the only difference lies in their publication
format and – especially – price. In some cases, readers may even consider online news to
be a more valuable product than print news (as the former is constantly updated), while
for a minority, print newspapers remain more credible.
Author’s Note
Manuel Goyanes is also affiliated with Universidad de Salamanca, Democracy Research Unit,
España.
16 Journalism 00(0)
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/
or publication of this article: This work was supported by the National Program of I+D+i oriented
to the Challenges of Society and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) about
“Nuevos valores, gobernanza, financiación y servicios audiovisuales públicos para la sociedad de
Internet: contrastes europeos y españoles”.
ORCID iD
Manuel Goyanes https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6537-9777
References
Aitamurto T and Lewis SC (2013) Open innovation in digital journalism: Examining the impact of
Open APIs at four news organizations. New Media & Society 15(2): 314–331.
Anderson C (2009) Free: The Future of Radical Price. New York: Random House Business Books.
Antunovic D, Parsons P and Cooke TR (2018) ‘Checking’ and googling: Stages of news consump-
tion among young adults. Journalism 19(5): 632–648.
Bakker P and Scholten O (2009) Communicatiekaart van Nederland [Communication Map of the
Netherlands]. Amsterdam: Kluwer.
Benton J (2011) What Apple’s new subscription policy means for news: New rules, new incen-
tives, new complaints. NiemanLab. Available at: https://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/what-
apples-new-subscription-policy-means-for-news-new-rules-new-incentives-new-complaints/
Boczkowski PJ, Mitchelstein E and Matassi M (2018) ‘News comes across when I’m in a moment
of leisure’: Understanding the practices of incidental news consumption on social media. New
Media & Society 20(10): 3523–3539.
Braun V and Clarke V (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in
Psychology 3(2): 77–101.
Cawley A (2018) Digital transitions: The evolving corporate frameworks of legacy newspaper
publishers. Journalism Studies 20(7): 1028–1049.
Chasney RW (2015) Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times.
New York: The New York Press.
Chyi HI (2005) Willingness to pay for online news: An empirical study on the viability of the
subscription model. Journal of Media Economics 18(2): 131–142.
Chyi HI and Yang MJ (2009) Is online news an inferior good? Examining the economic nature of
online news among users. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 86(3): 594–612.
Costera-Meijer I and Groot-Kormelink T (2015) Checking, sharing, clicking and linking: Changing
patterns of news use between 2004 and 2014. Digital Journalism 3(5): 664–679.
Curran J and Seaton J (2010) Power without Responsibility: The Press, Broadcasting and the
Internet in Britain. London: Routledge.
Garnham N (2000) Emancipation, the Media and Modernity: Arguments about the Media and
Social Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gilder G (1994) Life after Television. London: W.W. Norton & Company.
Goyanes M (2014) An empirical study of factors that influence the willingness to pay for online
news. Journalism Practice 8(6): 742–757.
Goyanes M (2015) The value of proximity: Examining the willingness to pay for online local
news. International Journal of Communication 9: 1505–1522.
Goyanes M, Artero JP and Zapata L (2018) The effects of news authorship, exclusiveness and
media type in readers’ paying intent for online news: An experimental study. Journalism.
Epub ahead of print 29 December. DOI: 10.1177/1464884918820741.
Goyanes et al. 17
Hardy J (2014) Critical Political Economy of the Media. London: Routledge.
Hermida A (2010) Twittering the news: The emergence of ambient journalism. Journalism
Practice 4(3): 297–308.
Lessig L (2006) Free culture. how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and
control creativity. Available at: http://www.free-culture.cc/
McManus J (1992) What kind of commodity is news? Communication Research 19(6): 787–805.
Marx K (1983 [1867]) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1. London: Lawrence &
Wishart.
Mosco V (2009) The Political Economy of Communication. London: SAGE.
Napoli PM (2003) Audience Economics: Media Institutions and the Audience Marketplace. New
York: Columbia University Press.
Negroponte N (1995) Being Digital. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Newman N, Fletcher R, Kalogeropoulos A, et al. (2019) Reuters institute digital news report 2019.
Available at: https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2019-06/DNR_2019_
FINAL_0.pdf
Patton M (2002) Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Picard RG (2009) Why journalists deserve low pay. Available at: http://www.robertpicard.net/
PDFFiles/whyjournalistsdeservelowpay.pdf
Salaverría R (2007) Spanish media landscape. In: Terzis G (ed.) European Media Governance.
Bristol: Intellect Books Ltd, pp. 277–288.
Shapiro C and Varian HR (1999) Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy.
Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Van der Wurff R (2012) The economics of online journalism. In: Siapera E and Veglis A (eds) The
Handbook of Global Online Journalism. New York: Wiley, pp. 231–250.
Varian HR (2014) Intermediate Microeconomics: A Modern Approach. New York: W. W. Norton
& Company.
Wasko J, Murdock G and Sousa H (2014) The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications.
New York: Wiley-Blackwell.
Author biographies
Manuel Goyanes, PhD, teaches at Carlos III University in Madrid and his main interests are in
media management and sociology of communication sciences. He has written about leadership,
news overload, and business models. His works have appeared in journals like Information,
Communication & Society, Journalism, Journalism Studies, Journalism & Mass Communication
Quarterly, and so on.
Marton Demeter is an associate professor of communication and media studies at the National
University of Public Service, Budapest (Hungary). His main areas of research are global inequality
in academic participation, the systematic biases toward global South authors in social sciences and
the analysis of social capital. He is also the founder and co-editor in chief of KOME: An
International Journal of Pure Communication Inquiry that is one of the leading communication
journal of the Central and Eastern European region.
Laura de Grado is an undergraduate student in Journalism Studies.
... Essentially, 'the culture of free' is not equal to free culture [25] but an aspect that considers online news as a freely available public good that is part of free consumption habits and a vital element of democracy [22]. It is important to emphasize that even though the culture of free supports unrestricted access to the news services' content, the online news cannot be free of charge because the utilized electricity, electronic devices, and broadband services still have specific costs. ...
... Moreover, the generation born into the broadband services' world does not intend to pay for immaterial goods such as online news. Most of them think that paywalls are pointless if they can reach the necessary information, including news, without additional costs [22]. Specific economic examinations that focus on 'freeconomics,' 'bits economy' [1], or 'network economy' [42] support these ideas. ...
... In sum, as Goyanes and colleagues [22] argue, the culture of free has at least four essential features to be taken into consideration. First, there is a large gap between news production's economic value and the number of people who are willing to pay. ...
... e author characterizes the lack of readers' proclivity to purchase new media as a free culture and study its key elements based on in-depth interviews with Spanish-speaking respondents. e free attitude, in particular, is a strong propensity toward considering information as a utility service that must be supplied for free, predicated on decades of free Internet use, propelled by free markets, a marketingenclosed region, and a pervasive loss of enthusiasm in news [24]. e goal of [25] is to present two new data sets demonstrating how partisans disproportionately read good news online. ...
Article
Full-text available
Public progress and people’s well-being need free and honest news media effective for educating the public, holding experienced authors accountable, and recording public debate of public officials on current events. News media’s evolution might be influenced by a variety of variables. Political understanding, economics, education, development corporation, and information technology are vital variables that will offer effective news. Due to the enactment of web and mobile technologies, the media world is now preparing for the next explorations with the Internet of Things (IoT). Because of IoT-based devices, this mix of technologies has already begun to spread. One of the industries most influenced by this next technological revolution will be news media. Internet of Things devices is enabling new methods of creating, disseminating, and consuming journalistic material, ushering the news business into a new paradigm: ubiquitous journalism. In this paper, we collected data from Chinese news organizations to improve security, team collaboration, high-speed network access, and public accessibility. We have used Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) encryption to contextualize IoT adoption inside the framework of technological advancements absorbed by media, and the process can be optimized by using Hybridized Fruitfly Bumblebee Optimization Algorithm (HFBOA). The suggested technique is compared to other existing methods, and its performance is assessed. The proposed method helps in increasing the security of the contents related to news media. The estimated results for our proposed technique are implementation cost (45), latency (40), security level (95), reliability (87), accuracy (89), throughput (6.7), execution time (1.05), and energy consumption (45).
Article
Getting users to pay for news remains a key challenge in journalism. With advertising revenues dwindling, news organizations have become increasingly dependent on reader revenue. This paper explores reasons news users have for not paying for (print and digital) news. 68 participants tried a free three-week newspaper trial subscription and afterward were interviewed about their considerations for (not) getting a paid subscription. Participants had four main reasons not to pay for news: price, sufficient freely available news, not wanting to commit oneself, and delivery and technical issues. A key finding is that digital entertainment subscriptions like Netflix and Spotify seemed central to how younger participants thought about paying for news. Another finding that stands out is that when referencing price, participants had a full print subscription in mind, even when their preferred subscription type was a less costly weekend-only or digital subscription. Participants also discussed future scenarios in which they might consider paying for news: a lower price, a flexible service, a one-stop for reliable news, the added value of higher quality news, and payment as a commitment device disciplining participants into actually reading the news.
Chapter
Conceptually aligned with the epistemologies of digital journalism, and in line with the definition of ‘total journalism’, this chapter presents a mapping of the contemporary digital journalist’s professional profile, highlighting the skills for ‘being’ a journalist, and ‘performing’ journalistic activities in the new century. This is based on meta-research conducted on the Scopus and Google Scholar databases, and the Capes Catalogue, for a longitudinal study of the bibliographical framework between 2000 and 2020, combined with the application of a questionnaire with 31 legacy and local digital media editors in Brazil. Evidence indicates that contemporary digital journalistic work is experiencing a trend towards platformization and surrounded by constant adaptability to new technologies, journalism is undergoing a crisis continuum, accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With insecure work, and a context of datafication and algorithmization, the journalist needs to address the need for constant innovation and qualification, without neglecting the ethos of the profession.
Article
Full-text available
This study explores how news authorship, exclusiveness, and media type affect readers' paying intent for digital contents. A web-based experiment involving 602 Spanish adults reveals that authorship (prestigious journalist), exclusiveness, and media type (legacy media and new media over unknown media) increase readers' economic value assessments of online news. In addition, our results show that the interaction between authorship and media type is affected by the level of news exclusiveness: when an online article is written by a prestigious journalist and is exclusive, readers' heuristic assessments of its economic value are biased toward new media over legacy ones, and thus privilege the former and penalize the latter in their pecuniary evaluations. These results might point to a change in readers' consumption patterns, favoring the brand values, and news production processes of new media over legacy ones.
Chapter
Full-text available
Located in the European southwest, Spain is a vast and very populated country of the European Union, thanks to its more than half a million square kilometres and its 44.1 million inhabitants, according to the census of 2005. Its GDP is at the average level of the 25 EU countries: 19,637 euro per capita in 2004. The administrative structure of the country is divided in 17 autonomous communities, distributed in 52 provinces. Its official language is Spanish, although in some of its autonomous communities other minority languages have an official status as well: Catalan and Valencian (spoken by 17% of the population), Galician (7%) and the Basque (2%), respectively. Since the end of Franco's dictatorship in 1975, Spain is governed by a parliamentary political system under a regime of constitutional monarchy. The country joined the European Union in 1986 and, since then, it has obtained an important and sustained economic growth that placed it as the tenth most powerful economy of the world in 2005. Such economic wealth, together with the tourist resources of the country, have attracted a growing number of immigrants that have established their residence in Spain in the latest years and have become a relevant target for the media companies; in 2005, 9 per cent of the population were foreigners.
Article
Full-text available
The exploration of new business models based on paid content strategies in the digital environment has generated an important discussion regarding the willingness to pay for online news. Previous studies have neglected local newspapers, although several analyses have clearly identified the local (news) as a fundamental asset to convince readers to pay for information. Based on a national survey of 1,637 U.S. adults, the research presented here systematically evaluates factors that influence the willingness to pay for online local news. Results of the logistic regression analysis reveals relationships between paying intent and predictor variables such as demographics (age and gender), media use (print and online newspapers), news interest, and traditional newspaper subscription. Finally, managerial and theoretical implications are discussed.
Article
This study examines the corporate annual reports of three leading UK legacy newspaper publishers (Guardian Media Group, Daily Mail and General Trust and Trinity Mirror) across 15 financial years from 2002. It tracks how the publishers reshaped their corporate frameworks and business and product portfolios in responding to market, consumer and technological shifts in the digital era. In particular, the study addresses the implications of digital and market upheavals for the corporations’ traditional roles as custodians of and operational contexts to journalism’s values paradigm. It evaluates the extent to which the corporations sought to protect news’s commodity value and journalism’s public interest norms within their digital transition strategies, which became increasing sites of managerial focus and resource allocations from the mid-2000s.
Article
Incidental consumption of news on social media has risen in recent years, particularly among young people. Previous studies have characterized what the main dimensions and effects of this phenomenon are. In this article, we complement that literature by looking at how this phenomenon unfolds. Inspired by practice theory, we aim to answer two questions: (1) what are the practices that subtend incidental news consumption on social media among young people? and (2) What are the social consequences of these practices? We draw upon 50 in-depth interviews with respondents aged 18–29 years from Argentina. Our findings show the existence of (1) strong connections between technology and content, “anywhere and anytime” coordinates, derivative information routines, and increasingly mediated sociability and (2) fragmentary reading patterns, loss of hierarchy of the news, and coexistence of editorial, algorithmic, and social filtering. We conclude by elaborating on the empirical and theoretical implications of these findings.
Article
In the changing news environment, young adult audiences, often dubbed ‘the Internet generation’, have increasingly gravitated toward online sources of news and information, raising questions about the nature and amount of news consumed. This study joins many others in looking at the emerging processes of news consumption among, in this case, college students, using focus group interviews to further examine how they go about obtaining news. Drawing upon literature in the areas of news consumption, media habits, generational change and news repertoire, this study identifies an emerging three-stage process of consumption that includes the following: routine surveillance, incidental consumption, and directed consumption, each conditioned by various forms of new media use. It suggests continued research in the interaction of a changing media ecology with generational adoption of news habits and the implications of this interaction for news and news engagement.
Book
How the media are organised and funded is central to understanding their role in society. Critical Political Economy of the Media provides a clear, comprehensive and insightful introduction to the political economic analysis of contemporary media. Jonathan Hardy undertakes a critical survey of political economy scholarship encompassing worldwide literature, issues and debates, and relationships with other academic approaches. He assesses different ways of making sense of media convergence and digitalisation, media power and influence, and transformations across communication markets. Many of the problems of the media that prompted critical political economy research remain salient, he argues, but the approach must continue to adapt to new conditions and challenges. Hardy advances the case for a revitalised critical media studies for the twenty-first century. Topics covered include: • media ownership and financing • news and entertainment • convergence and the Internet • media globalisation • advertising and media • alternative media • media policy and regulation. Introducing key concepts and research, this book explains how political economy can assist students, researchers and citizens to investigate and address vital questions about the media today.
Book
Over the last decade, political economy has grown rapidly as a specialist area of research and teaching within communications and media studies and is now established as a core element in university programmes around the world. The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications offers students and scholars a comprehensive, authoritative, up-to-date and accessible overview of key areas and debates. •Combines overviews of core ideas with new case study materials and the best of contemporary theorization and research. •Written many of the best known authors in the field. •Includes an international line-up of contributors, drawn from the key markets of North and Latin America, Europe, Australasia, and the Far East