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What? I have to pay for news?

Nobody enjoys hitting a wall, especially one that asks you to pay before you can read an article online. But despite how much you hate paywalls, they will be either here to stay or gone with the newspapers altogether.

"How many of you bought a newspaper in the last week? Raise your hand if you bought a newspaper," asks Mr Clifford J. Levy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the New York Times, the audience at a forum in Hong Kong Baptist University.

There are few hands in the air. Soon enough, laughters from the tens of journalism students and professionals fill the auditorium.

"You are much more accustomed to reading online, and also much more accustomed to getting your news for free. That's terrifying for people in the business of journalism," he says.

Part of that explains why the New York Times has taken the unpopular path of putting up a paywall. The reception has been mixed – some people were downright turned off, some accepts the fact that quality journalism is worth a few bucks (monthly fee for the New York Times is actually cheaper than a few cups of latte).

However desperate the newspaper wants you to pay, its paywall is not invincible at all – sometimes intentionally so.

Readers who click on links through Twitter, Facebook or Google News will be able to read the articles even after they have reached the limit of ten free articles on

"We want to have a paywall but we do not want to wall ourselves off from the web as a whole," he says, adding that newspapers that have tough paywalls often face great business challenges.

Another Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ms Paige St. John says the Los Angeles Times, which she now works for, is struggling with implementing a paywall on its website.

"The website is losing people at the moment. It's a difficult transition for them," she says. "The LA Times is rolling out new products on the webpages to try to bring people in."

No matter what businesses people are in, the only way to go seems to be "social". To news organisations, that means finding ways to make their articles appear on people's social media feed.

"We need to have a major presence on something like Twitter or Facebook, we have to be there because the eyeballs are there," says Mr Levy.

He adds that the New York Times is trying to figure out how to survive in these ecosystems which it does not control. "Ultimately, we want the traffic to come to our website."

"We're all struggling to find the right balance between opening ourselves up to the web and closing ourselves just enough to preserve our business model," Mr Levy says, on how news aggregators affect the traffic to the newspaper's website.

"There are different kinds of aggregators. Google News is an aggregator where they'll just feature the first paragraph of the story. Huffington Post is not exactly an aggregator, they are more actually taking your work, and repackaging it. They'll link to you, so they'll say it's okay. But in effect they're really taking the heart of your work."

Reported by Alan Wong 

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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