This article chronicles the recent history of the debate in the United States over digital paywalls, a model often hailed as newspapers’ savior. We show how this debate has evolved from emphasizing industry-wide adoption to focusing on individual experiments. While highlighting potential legal, economic, and democratic concerns with paywalls, we examine the empirical record of three prominent newspaper paywall models: the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Dallas Morning News, and the New York Times. While each has enjoyed varying levels of success, our analysis suggests that paywalls are unable to offset steep losses in advertising revenue. We conclude by briefly discussing non-commercial alternatives.
Published in Volume 2, Issue 2, pages 195-213