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A Radical Proposal

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Michael_ Gee, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    This idea was sparked by the Google thread today. If the Internet industry is going to do whatever it can to make sure newspaper content is free of charge on the Internet, as it apparently is, then I think if I were publisher of one of the three national brand name papers-The NY TImes, Washington Post, or the Wall St. Journal, I might consider taking a step beyond charging for content.
    I'd shut down my Web site. No Internet fees for me, no Internet information for you. Increasing my site traffic without making any money off it doesn't solve my problems, so why bother? I'd allow paid subscribers access to the archives, but otherwise, no. I would get out of the video and up-to-the-nanosecond breaking news business.
    This would create enormous pressure to create a product worth paying for and worth the loss of 24/7 timeliness-in short, I would be forced to concentrate on generating information you can't anywhere else.
    The Times has brand name authority for its information you can't get anywhere else-for things like restaurant, theater, and book reviews, for international news, for leaks from high government officials, etc. Why give it away chasing the Internet advertising phantom. Let those cheap SOBs step away from the keyboard and pony up a buck for a paper.
    If Google's running a rigged wheel, don't play. If people don't want to pay for your information, doom is inevitable, so you might as well force the issue.
  2. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    I think this is an excellent idea. There is no money to be made on the internet long-term, as you said it's chasing a phantom.

    It's time for newspapers to realize that and fold up the shop.
  3. clutchcargo

    clutchcargo Active Member

    On one side you have the Internet, the technology. On the other side of the aisle you have the newspapers, aka the content producers.

    The former ceases to exist without the latter.

    The latter triples in value without the former.
  4. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    So you think that newspapers are the only content producers and they are the only reason the internet is a success? You could kill every newspaper in America tomorrow -- the internet will still exist and thrive.
  5. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    Dirk, I agree. The Internet will always exist. It is an unparalleled tool for collecting, sorting and distributing information.
    Creating the information known as "news" requires people, sizeable organizations of people. Making one of those organizations financially viable is my goal. It may require refusal to distribute its information online. That's the only issue I am advancing here.
  6. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    In response to MGee's proposal--

    I think it is just as likely that your newspaper falls off the face of the Earth. Yes, readers respond to quality journalism. That said, you are cutting your paper off from the world. Your stories won't get the same amount of discussion across the internet. People tend not to write about news they can't link to. It's a MadLib of the internet culture -- (Insert newspaper) wrote a (insert adjective) story about (insert story subject) today. (Here is what I think). (Here is the link so you can read it for yourself).

    The journalism would be the equivalent of the proverbial tree that falls in the forest where no one hears it. You are creating beautiful works of journalism, but the internet isn't talking about it, so possible subscribers don't know about it.
  7. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    Dear Dirk: I am not talking about a theoretical newspaper-just one of the three national brand names. The Times, Post, and Journal have brand images for producing a desirable product (and considerable circulation still remaining indicating the image retains power). They DO produce information you can't anywhere else. They have the ability to be missed by the public. If one of one hundred Internet visitors to the Times buys a paper because the Web site goes down, that's a considerable increase in immediate revenue. They're getting 20 million hits a month.
    If people aren't willing to pay for information unobtainable anywhere else, if they are willing to accept less information as long as it's free, then the entire information business is doomed no matter what media it uses. Internet advertising by its very nature cannot support such a labor-intensive business as news.
    The idea that inability to obtain a product for free means it cannot survive goes against the law of supply and demand. Scarcity drives value. That's why life ain't free.
    The only other business model for news that could work as far as I can see is if its produced as a division of content distributors like Google or cable providers as a service for users. That'd be OK, as long as you're cool with never reading anything you can believe on telecommunication law and policy.
  8. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    Pope, the key word being "possible" subscribers. And as a potential subscriber, why would I fork over another $20 a month for a newspaper subscription, when I get on my computer and read all the articles, for free, on my home computer?
    You also seem to advancing the theory of the "conversation economy" where as long as the internet is talking about, then everything will work out.
    It won't.
  9. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    The problem, Michael, is that the national and international news those publications have is, in the public's mind, available elsewhere. So while you won't get those three august titles, you still have the web sites of major television news operations, the newsweeklies and other major magazines, international news sites, Bloomberg, et al. So there is no scarcity. Instead, you as a pub have just cut yourself off. You won't sell any more print copies as a result. Plus, even if you did, is the cost of printing and shipping those papers across the country more than the money you lose reaching those readers online?
  10. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    The Times and Journal, but not the Post, are produced and distributed nationally already. In the Journal's case, internationally. So that's not a big cost.
    These are the papers that drive the agenda. Without the Times, Post, and Journal, network news broadcasts would be five minutes long, and cable would be all Chris Matthews all the time.
    I repeat. For this to work, you must produce quality information unavailable elsewhere. These organizations do so frequently already, they'd just need to up the amperage.
    Look, one problem with newspapers is that with hundreds of them in trouble, all of them are trying to deal with the crisis the same way. It ain't working. It would make more business sense for a bunch of different models to be tried. That way, if one of them should happen to work, it could be copied, modified, etc. by the others.
  11. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I like Michael Gee's radical proposal, but I would modestly suggest we take it a step further.

    In the interim, until the changes shake out and the papers are more financially viable again, I think we should take newspapers corporate honchos who have failed to have the vision to navigate these waters and "harvest" them.

    We would sell their organs to fund a pool for out-of-work journalists and the scraps could be fed to their dogs.

    It's a win-win!
  12. PopeDirkBenedict

    PopeDirkBenedict Active Member

    I am very pessimistic about the future of newspapers. I think the paradigm we have had since the turn of the last century isn't going to remain viable for much longer. So I agree that "people talking about you" will not equal profits. But cutting yourself off from that conversation isn't the answer either. If the NY Times went "internet-free" tomorrow, Paul Krugman's influence would plummet. People wouldn't rush to subscribe to read him. Instead, someone else would rise up to be the top liberal columnist in this country. Think of everything that makes the New York Times special. There is some website or competing media organization that can do one of those things. One of them can rise up with greats arts coverage. Someone else would become the gold standard of book reviews. There would be a new Krugman, etc. If the WSJ did the same, eventually some other entity would become the must-read for every MBA student and businessman. While no entity would ever be able to do ALL of the things that the NYT/WaPo/WSJ does, it would just become fragmented as people picked up the pieces. The conversation that takes place on the internet is what creates influence and creates the perception of quality.
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