CHEBILI: Paywalls restrict knowledge to those who can afford it – The Cavalier Daily
Have you ever read an article in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, read a few lines, and suddenly been stuck with a message telling you to subscribe now for full access? Or maybe you needed to read a research paper to complete a midterm essay, only to find that access will cost an arm and a leg from an obscure journal you won’t have anymore. never need. These features are called paywalls, which prohibit access to online content without an exchange of value – often a paid subscription. Restriction-based efforts to monetize websites have become more common after the decline of physical media, such as magazines and newspapers. Although paywalls provide an additional source of revenue for newspaper companies, they are detrimental to the educational content available to consumers.
Advertising was once the main source of income for online websites, but due to ad blockers, paywalls are gaining popularity. In 2019, more than three quarters online news sources in the United States have paywalls in place. It is difficult for news sources to balance the responsibility of informing the general public while keeping themselves afloat in an age when many traditional media cannot be monetized. Before online news, consumers paid a small fee for physical newspapers. Paywalls may seem like the digital equivalent of paying for traditional paper information – however, paywalls often block access to quality information from trustworthy sites. Those who cannot afford to subscribe are forced to obtain information elsewhere, and paywalls will continue to benefit the small segment of the public with the financial means to access information. As print news declines, news sources must use monetization alternatives that do not increase news inequality and still compensate journalists fairly.
The arena of published research is also increasingly inaccessible and expensive due to monopolies – like Elsevier, for example, which houses around 18 years old percent of research papers worldwide. Scientists who produce research articles for journals are not compensated for their contributions. However, if an author wants their article to be published in open access, i.e. without a paywall, companies like Elsevier will do so. load authors between $500 and $5,000. In addition, the publication costs of most journals are well over $1000. The accusations don’t stop there. In terms of consumer access, annual magazine subscriptions can Cost academic institutions millions of dollars. Accessing singular articles as an individual may make someone back down around $30. Not only does this create financial barriers for those who learn, such as students, but it severely disrupts the research process for those who need to be able to review the work of their peers in order to pursue their own research.
Wealth disparities already play a huge role in the quality of education people receive. Private schools, certain supplies and technology, and tutoring are just some of the educational resources that may be out of reach for low-income people. Knowledge should never be protected and the web should remain accessible, especially when much research is funded by taxpayers’ money in the form of government grants. Paywalls widen the gap between what people can access based on their income.
The effects of educational barriers like paywalls and subscriptions go beyond hurting his finances. This will likely increase partisanship, as people will only be willing to pay to see sources they are likely to agree with and want to see, which will ultimately reduce the diversity of their audience. Additionally, news sources may tend to cover topics that their subscribers will continue to pay to see, foregoing critical issues if they are not liked by paying audiences. Ultimately, most consumers will end up turning to free alternatives, namely social media, where misinformation proliferates.
Regarding sources of information, alternatives to paywalls should not restrict content. Businesses can offer a membership or subscription that provides additional benefits, so payment feels like an exchange of value rather than an obligation. Basic content would remain free, but paying customers could get access to special features like podcasts or exclusive interviews.
In the area of published research, many academic institutions and research consortia refusing sign contracts with publishers. These boycotts have given rise to new open access journals, free for everyone. However, researchers always aim to be published in reputable journals to support their careers, and open access journals will not be able to compete. For now, the solution remains in the hands of the research culture and whether academics would be willing to give up some of the prestige in exchange for accessible knowledge.
Nicole Chebili is an opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at [email protected]
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. The columns represent the opinions of the authors only.