Why drop a paywall? Mapping industry accounts of online news decommodification

Mike Ananny, Leila Bighash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Why is news sometimes free? Although the commercial press's history is, in part, the search for new forms of commodification, journalism sometimes distances itself from commerce and economically decommodifies its work. We investigate one such moment in the form of "paywall exceptions": instances when online news organizations drop or temporarily reconfigure their paywalls to let news circulate unmetered among subscribers and nonsubscribers alike. We document 69 exceptions from 1999 to 2015, categorize publishers' publicly stated rationales, and reflect on what they reveal about the networked press's negotiations between democratic and commercial logics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3359-3380
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Communication
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital journalism economics
  • Networked press
  • Online news
  • Paywalls

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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