When I talk about the drag paywalls have on traffic, I’m not really arguing that point so much as appealing to those who would consider paywalls. Their argument is that the news industry is hurting financially, ergo people should pay for news. Paywalls destroy traffic and if no one’s coming to your site, well…how are you going to make money?
Traffic is only ancillary to my real reasons for opposing paywalls, though (I’ve basically said “eff traffic” in the anonymous comments argument anyway): I think information should be free (in principle) and I think it’s more rewarding that way.
Look, we all want traffic (obviously), but that can’t be your only goal for your site and if it is, your niche should be porn. So my goal is to inform. As journalists, we’ve always argued that information should be open and available to everyone (re: inform the public). True, some people can afford to pay for news while others can’t, but by that logic, we should charge on a sliding pay scale that’s dependent on income. Charging for news probably isn’t going to do much anyway.
A shared news and information community also leads to greater rewards, too. Imagine your favorite baseball team has made it to Game 7 of the World Series. Where would you rather be: watching the game on TV, alone, or screaming in a bar with 300 other people? Whether your team wins or loses, you just felt the same thing at the same time as 300 other people (most of whom you don’t even know). Now extrapolate that to something important. Do you really want to wall off your information and deprive people of that?
We never made that much money off subscriptions to begin with and it’s desperate to start trying to do so now.