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EMAC 2021 Annual Conference

Paywall and Content Polarization

Published: May 25, 2021


Shunyao Yan, Goethe University Frankfurt


This paper studies how financing content by subscription through a paywall impacts the content polarization of the news media. Analyzing news articles from the 4 largest US news media for 3 years based on a novel polarization index trained from the US congress speech, this paper shows that the New York Times (NYT) polarized itself on the political dimension by 20% more after adopting a paywall (i.e., NYT leaning to the political left by 20% more). Furthermore, this paper finds suggestive evidence that the newsroom got more polarized after the paywall adoption: journalists who wrote more left-leaning news articles are more likely to get new byline assignments. We discuss the policy implication of these findings for the media market.