New media grows up by changing old guards

The news Chris Hughes scooped up the long-suffering political magazine The New Republic earlier this month took me by surprise. Not so much that Hughes – Mark Zuckerberg’s old Harvard roommate and one of Facebook’s founders – spent money on a company peddling a print product, but that The New Republic was still around. Quite simply, I’d forgotten about the magazine in the first place.

It’s always flown under the radar, but The New Republic has long been the reading of liberal politicians – and few others.

Already, Hughes is making his mark. Today, The New Republic’s staff announced it was disassembling part of its paywall.

Hughes isn’t throwing out the paywall altogether, but it’s safe to say he doesn’t believe blocking non-subscribers from clicking and sharing and driving web traffic is a good model, particularly for a low-profile publication such as TNR.

The change in thinking probably comes from someone with such a heavy background in online media, or an age where a lot of good information can be had for free in digital format only. Facebook was one of the first big changes in the way we receive and send information, and it’s changed the way people share articles. Those who scoff at people who say “I only get my news from Facebook and Twitter” likely don’t understand what that implies. No, all people on social media aren’t necessarily news people, but journalists and news organizations are on those platforms sharing their information. And they’re giving it away for free.

TNR’s decision to open up its content won’t singlehandedly save it. And I don’t think other magazines sitting behind paywalls will follow in droves, either. But it does throw another curve at the belief that a paywall is the cure for what ails print media. Frankly, they (the big media players making us pay for content) are doing it wrong.

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