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Are news paywalls still relevant in 2022?

Are news paywalls still relevant in 2022?

Or perhaps the question should be “were they ever relevant at any point of time?”

Recently I was checking for news about the ongoing political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka and came across a couple of articles that were behind paywalls. Needlessly to say I simply went on to click other links. In this day and age, I just don’t understand how this technique will generate revenue. If I don’t get the news from one source, I just click another link. The explosion of alternative media has ensured that there are a wide range of choices to get news and opinions from. It’s long past the era when one got the latest news from traditional newspapers like The Hindu or Times of India. Today you have these traditional media houses begging for subscriptions to keep them alive, appealing to support “free and fearless journalism.” Well, unless you offer really unique or specialized knowledge that is not available elsewhere, such tactics will fall flat.

While I don’t have any stats, I am sure that paywalling isn’t a successful business model. In an era of dwindling attention spans, getting people to read long-form text content is hard enough, while it’s just trivial to get the same news from some other free source. Also opinion pieces aren’t really worth subscribing to, even if they do come up with click-bait titles and clever previews.

I am divided about this: while I don’t necessarily trust traditional media to indulge in ethical journalism, I don’t want a world where Google, Facebook and Twitter have a stranglehold on delivery of digital content, including news, and monopoly on revenue generated from such content. At the same time, traditional media houses cannot simply use emotive tactics to get people to give them money. We’ve seen how this larger conflict between traditional media and tech giants has played out, with some countries such as Australia legislating that tech giants pay for news content and Canada also proposing a law for revenue sharing between tech giants and traditional news houses, with other countries likely to consider such legislation. It seems fair that when tech giants such as Google and Facebook make money from advertising off content they didn’t create, they must be asked to share the revenue generated from such advertising with the content creator. How effective such legislation will be in the long term remains to be seen of course.

I can well understand that online alternate media has made it difficult for traditional print media to survive and subscription is a tempting revenue source, but even so, charging for access to digital news content from end users does not seem the way forward.

The mystery of the missing camera

The mystery of the missing camera

It’s been a while since I’ve paid attention to the photography gear scene, but these days it appears that there are very few affordable, and more importantly newly released enthusiast/prosumer interchangeable lens cameras available on the market (at least here in India). The least expensive DSLR camera I found was the rather underwhelming Canon EOS 3000D (priced ~ ₹27,000), followed by the EOS 1500D (priced ~ ₹37,000), both of which were released in 2018, and are entry-level in Canon’s range. But strangely, no other brand, not even Nikon seems to have stock of any affordable entry-level DSLR models in the market. Even in the mirrorless range there are very few affordable or newer models and most are priced even higher than they were at launch.

Of course, I do understand that the global semiconductor shortage has hit the camera market particularly hard, but even then I expected to find a few more affordable entry-level mirrorless cameras since mirrorless is a fairly mature technology and has been around for a while now and most camera manufacturers have completely stopped manufacturing DSLRs. While I can understand the non-production of DSLRs, I am quite surprised that not a single manufacturer has come up with a truly affordable entry-level mirrorless.

I ran a few random searches for mirrorless cameras and prices on various online stores using google for the cheapest prices I could find for some of the available models. Bear in mind that most of them were released several years ago and are hardly bleeding edge. I’m quoting the price I found for brand new rather than pre-owned:

  • Canon EOS M200 (~ ₹42,000)
  • Nikon Z50 (~ ₹70,000)
  • Panasonic Lumix G7 (~ ₹42,000)
  • Canon EOS M50 II (~ ₹58,000)
  • Sony Alpha A6000Y[1] (~ ₹54,000)

I’m not even getting into Fujifilm, Olympus or other brands. The INR prices quoted are absurdly insane, and it seems that most models not even available on the markets.

Maybe this phenomenon is India-specific though, since even at the best of times the duty on imported electronics severely impacts the final marked price and many of the newly released models take ages to reach the Indian market anyway. Coupled with the semiconductor crisis that doesn’t seem to be abating soon, I think we have a market where you shell out a premium even for several year old entry-level models.

  1. The dual lens kit. The A6000L single lens kit with the 16-50mm is ~ ₹43,000[]