The implementation of paywall, as a viable business model, has become a popular monetization strategy for websites, especially for online news media. A paywall refers to any “digital mechanism that separates free content from paid content on a website” (as cited in Chiou & Tucker, 2013). It is the digitalization that forces news media organizations to solve how to manage access to and the pricing of their content (Chiou & Tucker, 2013). During the last decade, with the trend led by several large players in the media industry, including News Corp. and The New York Times, a growing number of news media companies have moved behind the paywall where readers need to purchase for accessing content online that used to be free (Chiou & Tucker, 2013; Kumar, 2013; Kvalheim, 2013). According to the American Press Institute, in 2016, 78% of U.S. newspapers with circulations over 50,000 are using a digital subscription model (Williams, 2016). Meanwhile, the freemium model has typically reduced the number of free articles from 20 to 5 and even fewer since 2011 among most news providers (Williams, 2016).

In the radically changing news environment, the young adult audience, often known as “the internet generation,” have increasingly gravitated toward online sources of news and information, raising questions about the nature of news and values behind the news consumption (Antunovic, Parsons, & Cooke, 2018). Their attitudes, opinions, and news consumption patterns become essential to the development of news-reading experience and profitable opportunities for publishers in the future. News media companies’ strategies in the digital age, therefore, depend critically on “whether social media substitutes for or drives online news consumption” (Aral & Zhao, 2019). My research question focus on what characterizes the news consumption behaviors for Generation Z in the current news media environment where the paywall prevails.

Keyword: newspaper audience, paywall policy, media monetization