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Can the New York Times and Washington Post survive on a pay-wall business model if they do it together?
July 24, 2009 10:35 PM   Subscribe

In a new essay entitled Build the Wall, David Simon (who was a Baltimore Sun reporter before he produced The Wire) argues that if the larger newspaper industry is to survive, The New York Times and Washington Post must start charging readers for access to their websites (preferably done as a single action in concert with each other) — John Gruber, Dave Winer, and the folks at Gawker disagree, and Steven Berlin Johnson argues that while the future for newspapers might be quite bleak, the future for journalism and high quality analysis is actually quite bright. Meanwhile, the Times is currently doing market research to see if it's readers would be willing to pay $5 a month for online access, and the Associated Press announced it's intent to build a new news DRM system that will enable users to “consume, mash up and share AP content based on rights”.
posted by dyslexictraveler (128 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Do people even care enough about the news to pay that?
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:37 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank gawd! I've never seen a siteation couldn't be resolved by a game of chicken....'specialllllly one pre-formed by classic cars!
posted by es_de_bah at 10:39 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good luck with that.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:40 PM on July 24, 2009


Any guilt I may have once felt about pirating the Corner & all 5 seasons of the Wire is now completely erased.

Glad I bought his books at secondhand stores.
posted by hamida2242 at 10:40 PM on July 24, 2009


The last link was posted earlier to Reddit with the amusing title "Maybe someone should explain to the Associated Press just how unimplementable this is".
posted by Mr. Palomar at 10:42 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


the Associated Press announced it's intent to build a new news DRM system that will enable users to “consume, mash up and share AP content based on rights”.

Well that's a novel solution to the problem; I see no way it could possibly fail.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:44 PM on July 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


...must start charging readers for access to their websites...

Didn't the NYT already try that? And give up on it?

...(preferably done as a single action in concert with each other)...

Wouldn't that be a violation of antitrust law?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:46 PM on July 24, 2009


Man, the newspaper industry is just so arrogant about their perceived indispensability. I mean, the NYT tried charging people for access and it failed. Why would it work now when the economy is going down the tubes? If the NYT charged, people would just go elsewhere.

I think it's also interesting how newspapers seem to think without them, voters will be totally ignorant about local goings on, local corruption will rein free (because obviously local papers would never never be deferential to the local businesses that advertise in their pages), when in fact, what percentage of the public even reads local papers? It can't be all that many.
posted by delmoi at 10:46 PM on July 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


A more accurate version of the AP Point-Protect-Pay chart (via)
posted by Mr. Palomar at 10:48 PM on July 24, 2009 [31 favorites]


Ultimately, whats going to happen is that we will replace newspapers as we did town criers and groups of elders as carriers of news and history. Technology has made them white elephants. Kill them and eat them alive so we can take the nourishment there is to be had.
posted by Rubbstone at 10:51 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


On the other hand I love this graphic. Why are "news consumers" illustrated as a database with a "warning" icon? Is the AP secretly planning to replace us all with PHP scripts backed by MySQL databases, who will continuously be shocked at the goings on in the world (thus the warning indicator?)
posted by delmoi at 10:52 PM on July 24, 2009


In other news, the Most Grande Union of The Kings Own Codpiece Sellers announced that they would hike prices for their men's outergarments by 300% to maintain their profitability in this strange XXI century, anno dominum.
posted by Avenger at 10:53 PM on July 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


Rupert Murdoch agrees. I agree.

I love my free stuff, but at this point I’d have to agree with the reasons behind it.

Unless we go all "unpaid citizen journalist." AFAICT most unpaid citizen journalists [read: bloggers] presently use the mainstream media and free online newspaper articles as a sounding board. There’s going to have to be a big shift in one direction soon, surely?

...Which gets me thinking about my Psych100 lectures and the theories of motivation and personality types. Quality, unpaid journalists might not be as stupid as it sounds.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:53 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't that be a violation of antitrust law?

That's so close to "price fixing" it's not funny. Huge fines in Australia for price fixing.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:55 PM on July 24, 2009


Any guilt I may have once felt about pirating the Corner & all 5 seasons of the Wire is now completely erased.

I really don't understand this attitude. I can see how people might be sad or annoyed that these sites may soon start charging for access, but I don't understand why people get indignant about it, as if charging for access is unethical or unfair.
posted by gsteff at 10:57 PM on July 24, 2009 [31 favorites]


There would be no issue about free news content could figure out how to sell adverts. Here's a hint: Google is not your friend. Pay-per-click will only send you to your grave.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:59 PM on July 24, 2009


Kill them and eat them alive so we can take the nourishment there is to be had.

Or, you know, we could go to Starbucks once less each month.
posted by gsteff at 11:01 PM on July 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


Google is not your friend.

Huh?
posted by Ritchie at 11:02 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unless we go all "unpaid citizen journalist." AFAICT most unpaid citizen journalists [read: bloggers] presently use the mainstream media and free online newspaper articles as a sounding board. There’s going to have to be a big shift in one direction soon, surely?

Sounding Board (look at 'other meanings') generally means someone who listens to you and gives you feed back.

I assume you mean that bloggers just talk about what they see in the newspaper, which would make them sources. But in any event bloggers also spend a lot of talking about what other bloggers are saying, as well as stuff on on television and TV news websites. The idea that they would somehow run out of content if newspapers stopped reporting is silly. There are a lot of blogs out there that do original reporting an analysis. Talkingpoints Memo, Huffington Post, do a lot of original reporting (TPM especially).

In another thread someone brought up 538 as something that couldn't exist without newspapers to pay for polling, when actually polling companies usually put out their poll results in press releases, Public Policy Polling actually has it's own blog and continuously puts out poll results (even now it's polling 2010 primaries and elections, and posting results online)

Also, newspaper apologists completely ignore the existence of TV news. Many local stations have websites with plenty of text news articles. CNN and Foxnews have tons of text content online.
posted by delmoi at 11:07 PM on July 24, 2009


Who will do the in-depth investigative journalism when the newspapers go away?

I know, I know... the blogosphere. I just don't believe it can happen.

When a newspaper journalist, even a small town one, goes into City Hall or a police station and wants to talk to someone, there is a certain amount of clout that person has due to the organization standing behind him. They aren't there as a private citizen, they have purpose and a duty. How many bloggers are going to be able to muster that kind of standing with agencies reluctant to share information? Even if arrest reports and such are public record, what will I do if I, as a public citizen, meet resistance at the local constabulary when I ask to see them? There's no phone call to the chief to be made on my behalf by the publisher. There is no funding for me to contest the lack of transparency in court. They say no, I have to walk away.

Likewise, how will anyone afford to spend the kind of time it takes to dig into the dark corners? Most blogging and online reporting is shallow and wide. There is a lot of buzz and clatter about whatever is happening RIGHT NOW, but I cannot remember EVER seeing an article which requires real digging and dot-connecting and skulking originate from a blogger. When I do find those articles online, they are from old-school news sources -- magazines and newspapers. They can afford to pay their staff to sit in a room combing through files for weeks. They can afford to travel people around to talk to person X in that corner of the state, and person Y in that nursing home in that city, etc. until the full fabric of the story is woven.

Please, tell me. If there is an alternative to paying for content which can save this kind of reporting, let me know. Let the world know. But I don't see it happening from the blogosphere, and without funding, those organizations which can do this kind of reporting will fall apart and we will be left with nothing but the sound of rocks skipping across the pond.
posted by hippybear at 11:10 PM on July 24, 2009 [44 favorites]


Also, newspaper apologists completely ignore the existence of TV news. Many local stations have websites with plenty of text news articles. CNN and Foxnews have tons of text content online.

We're all so impressed with the in-depth nature of reporting in our local TV news. Goodness. What will it be about tonight? Car wrecks, robberies, stabbings, and scandals? Not a word about city government or corporate malfeasance? Sounds like very local TV station I've watched in the past 10 years.

And really? CNN and Faux? One is living off of Tweets, and the other hasn't been a trusted news source since they co-opted the phrase "Fair and Balanced" and turned it into Orwellian newspeak.
posted by hippybear at 11:16 PM on July 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh, heh. That's the sort of laughter I need. Seriously.

Call me back when actual physical newspapers stop existing finally? Its about 5 years over due at this point.
posted by strixus at 11:17 PM on July 24, 2009


When a newspaper journalist, even a small town one, goes into City Hall or a police station and wants to talk to someone, there is a certain amount of clout that person has due to the organization standing behind him.

Which is why I wear a grey fedora with a "PRESS" card stuck in the band.
posted by Tacodog at 11:19 PM on July 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


The future is not their friend. The business model of Newspapers was that expensive Journalism would be supported by classified ads (mostly for real estate and cars) and Sunday store circulars, not to mention the subscriptions and newsstand sales to people who bought the paper for the classifieds or the store ads or the funnies or the crossword puzzle or the sports section or the movie showtimes or the umpteen other things in the newspapers that ARE NOT JOURNALISM. Newspaper Journalism as it was practiced in the U.S. has NEVER paid for itself. Now, Television News is doing much better at that, but look at who and WHAT is making the most money. When (not if) the NYT, WaPo, WSJ and the rest go behind a pay wall high and strong enough to protect them, the rest of the media-consuming public will not miss them all that much and may be somewhat relieved that they don't have to listen to their death rattle.
posted by wendell at 11:21 PM on July 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Any guilt I may have once felt about pirating the Corner & all 5 seasons of the Wire is now completely erased.

Glad I bought his books at secondhand stores.


Old man: Ohhh, you've done me no wrong in our life together.
Giving Tree: Yes, we've shared a sacred friendship.
Old man: I feel so bad having taken so much from you and given nothing in return. Is there anything you want of me?
Giving Tree: Hmm...well--ah, never mind.
Old man: No, no...please.
Giving Tree: Well, ok...would you mind switching out of your boots so you don't trample the flowers on your way here?
Old man: ... *unzips* YOU'RE A FUCKIN OUTHOUSE TO ME, BROTHA!
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 11:22 PM on July 24, 2009 [24 favorites]


Who will do the in-depth investigative journalism when the newspapers go away?

But what newspapers still do "in-depth investigative journalism"? Besides the flagship metropolitan newspapers, I mean? Is what most other papers are doing investigative journalism? Not really. Most smaller and mid-sized papers are going the way of "user-generated content," wire stories, blogs, and fluff.

I see your point about the resources and pull necessary to do investigative reporting, but I don't see a surfeit of what anyone would call investigative reporting occurring at many traditional newspapers anymore. Few newspapers have the money for it.

As for mustering standing to shake a fist at the powers that be, I would submit that newspapers don't have a heck of a lot of that anymore, either. The days of "All the President's Men" are no longer with us. I can't say I like that development, but flagship papers putting their content behind pay firewalls isn't going to make the situation any better. Nevertheless, it's going to happen, probably with all of the major coastal newspapers -- the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, etc.
posted by blucevalo at 11:25 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bill Maher's final "new rule" tonight was about how not everything in the world needs to make a profit. He used the example of TV news 40 years ago, during Cronkite's time, when TV news was a money pit but considered a civic duty.

I don't know how to reinstate this kind of mentality, and even less how to institute it about text journalism... but if the Press is truly the 4th Estate and is there to protect us from those with power by illuminating abuses and doing the work none of us with "real jobs" have the time to discover for ourselves, then we need to find a way to protect it.

A healthy Press is not a luxury. It is necessary for liberty and democracy to exist.
posted by hippybear at 11:27 PM on July 24, 2009 [20 favorites]


Who will do the in-depth investigative journalism when the newspapers go away?

Who's doing it now? Who did it in the lead-up to the Iraq War? (the correct answer is: people who don't work for the Newspapers when anybody did it at all) If anything, losing this "investigative resource" may make us less complacent, because, come on, they haven't been "looking out for us" for many many years.
posted by wendell at 11:27 PM on July 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd be willing to pay $5, $10... hell, even $50 a month for access to online news websites if they promise to never, ever allow reader comment sections on any news story, ever.

Seriously, the comments section of online news websites seems to attract the most loony, batshitinsane and downright stupid people ever... like the proverbial moth to a flame. To ensure these wingnuts are prevented their ability to spew their own brand of insipid bullshit all over the internet would be worth $50, if not more.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:29 PM on July 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


Sounding Board (look at 'other meanings') generally means someone who listens to you and gives you feed back.

I assume you mean that bloggers just talk about what they see in the newspaper...


Yes. Exactly. Appreciate the correction.

I actually had "base" typed in and then changed it to "sounding board." I remember also thinking: should that be "spring board"?

I currently spend ~$5 per month for access to a newspaper. But it's the weekend dead tree version of The Australian. I still like the take-anywhere convenience.

...However, I hate the lack of choice, and the smugness, political slant, boorishness, and even ignorance of some of their columnists. Meh, what do ya do?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:30 PM on July 24, 2009


So I know that fussy print conventions like proofreading are obsolescent in this new techno-utopian age, but couldn't we please still take the trouble to tell "its" from "it's"?
posted by RogerB at 11:30 PM on July 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


A healthy Press is not a luxury. It is necessary for liberty and democracy to exist.

We have been living without "a healthy Press" ever since certain investors started treating the business as a cash cow. Liberty and democracy has suffered, but it does still exist and I really don't see it getting much worse if the NYT shuts down tomorrow.
posted by wendell at 11:31 PM on July 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


But what newspapers still do "in-depth investigative journalism"? Besides the flagship metropolitan newspapers, I mean?

Well, maybe I'm living in an odd place then. But in recent memory, the local newspapers here in Spokane has done extensive investigation into financial dealings involving the city and a parking garage which went awry, has done in-depth investigation into the hypocrisy of a former mayor, and has dug deep into a lot of other hidden pieces of corporate malfeasance.

Either we have a lot more of this going on in this area, or this paper is doing it right and the rest of the country has papers which have simply dropped the ball.

Anyone else have a local paper exposing wrongdoing within the community? Or does anyone else on the Blue even read their local paper?
posted by hippybear at 11:33 PM on July 24, 2009


Any guilt I may have once felt about pirating the Corner & all 5 seasons of the Wire is now completely erased.

Yeah, it's obvious you were real torn up about it. We were starting to worry.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:40 PM on July 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Anyone else have a local paper exposing wrongdoing within the community? Or does anyone else on the Blue even read their local paper?

I have and do. My favorite part is the op-ed and letters page, it lets me know I'm less insane than my neighbors.
posted by Mblue at 11:41 PM on July 24, 2009


I subscribe to an actual, physical newspaper. It is ludicrously inexpensive. I almost can't fathom how they manage to research, write, edit, print, and deliver a paper for the amount they charge me.

(Of course, intellectually I do know how they accomplish this: the majority of the cost is offset by advertising. But that's besides the point — the product is priced well below its value, at least to me.)

However, I don't know if I'd pay for an online subscription. I enjoy reading the paper, but I don't really read a paper online, nor do I think I would. I hit Google News from time to time during the day, and will use it to drill down to a story, but I don't browse the way I do with the physical paper.

The only future I see for the newspapers is going after these two very different products:

- Ad-supported, online news. Take advantage of, and don't fight, aggregators like Google News, for the traffic they drive. Don't put up paywalls or logins. This product is designed for people who come in from some other site, read an article, hopefully click on an ad or on one of the other articles, spend a few minutes, and leave. They are not -ever- going to pay cash for this service; it's too ephemeral. If it didn't exist, they'd just watch cat videos on YouTube or read Metafilter or something; whatever they'd do, it would be free.

- Subscription-supported dead-tree newspapers or newsmagazines. Alternately, when the technology becomes widely available, this could be a product delivered to a Kindle-like ebook reader. This is designed for people who want to browse through something that represents the news (maybe in a particular area, or maybe as filtered through a particular editorial viewpoint) that has occurred in the past day/week/month/whatever. It might or might not have ads, but they should be carefully considered and placed in order to keep the perceived value of the product high. It would be heavy on analysis and use the inherent difference between the print news cycle and the realtime stream-of-consciousness that is broadcast media to its advantage.

It's entirely possible the the second model would not support daily papers anymore. I think that's fine — I'd personally rather get a weekly paper that summed up the events of the week in a cogent fashion than a daily — because breaking news could come from the web or other sources.

A single company could produce both products and they could exist symbiotically, although I think the market would have to determine which one would be the bigger source of revenue. I suspect it's the newsmag side, but they would have to be careful to stay with the times and move from paper publishing to ebook-style when it becomes practical, and paper becomes more of a luxury (as it should be).
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:46 PM on July 24, 2009


An aside, the malfeasance is covered by Burlington's Seven Days.
posted by Mblue at 11:46 PM on July 24, 2009


We're all so impressed with the in-depth nature of reporting in our local TV news. Goodness. What will it be about tonight? Car wrecks, robberies, stabbings, and scandals? Not a word about city government or corporate malfeasance? Sounds like very local TV station I've watched in the past 10 years.

In years past, stations had "I-Teams" that broke the lid on many issues. One investigation resulted in the implementation of restaurant ratings, improving hygeine and savings many lives. Or breaking the story of disabled people not being secured on buses. TV investigative reporting used to be popular and could happen again.

And the fact is that for most TV news, it's good enough for 90% of the population. Most people don't care that much about local politics, and it is tough for the newspapers to care either since most metro areas in the US have dozens of independent cities to cover, plus school boards, water districts, and so forth. It's impossible for any news organization to cover those effectively and the anonymous blogger or nonymous gadfly is better at drawing attention to these issues. Or, have the lobbyists and interest groups pay for the coverage. Publicola may be a viable model.
posted by calwatch at 11:47 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of blogs out there that do original reporting an analysis. Talkingpoints Memo, Huffington Post, do a lot of original reporting (TPM especially).

I don't read any such sites because the MSM + bloggers + newsfilter sites like Metafilter is good enuff for me right now. And I'm lazy and I fear change. As soon as the MSN starts charging a fee I will probably find myself migrating to sites like the one you mention.

It's becoming a rather elegant study on "what the market will bear."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:48 PM on July 24, 2009


My favorite part is the op-ed and letters page, it lets me know I'm less insane than my neighbors.

Hey, don't mistake what I wrote to say "They have awesome revelations of wrongdoing EVERY DAY in EVERY ISSUE. The examples I gave were two or three really excellent pieces of work done in the 6 years since i moved here. There have been some lesser pieces of revelation which aren't springing immediately to mind (at midnight on Friday with copious beer in my system). But overall, yes. The local paper has probably a 1:100 signal to noise ratio.

posted by hippybear at 11:48 PM on July 24, 2009


Hey, don't mistake what I wrote to say, I agree with them more times than not.
posted by Mblue at 11:53 PM on July 24, 2009


The idea that they would somehow run out of content if newspapers stopped reporting is silly. There are a lot of blogs out there that do original reporting an analysis. Talkingpoints Memo, Huffington Post, do a lot of original reporting (TPM especially).


Talking Points Memo always gets cited as an example of how reporting will survive the death of newspapers, but I think a lot of new media boosters vastly overestimate the amount of original reporting it does. I think that the amount of original reporting that TPM does per days is much less than 1% of what the NYT produces. Given that the NYT has a newsroom staff of around 1,300, each of whom has unrivaled resources and ability to get people to return their phone calls, along with many freelancers, and that TPM currently has 8 and hopes to double that within three years, I think the numbers bear that out.

Actually, that leads to a more general reason I'm skeptical that journalism can survive the transition from newspapers to blogs largely intact, which is the power dynamic between reporters and sources. A lot of people nowadays, new media advocates in particular, are upset that mainstream media reporters were so timid about calling out Bush administration lies, granting anonymity too liberally, turning Donald Rumsfeld into a sex symbol for a few years, etc. I've always thought that the main explanation for this deference to sources, a legitimate cultural change since the days of Watergate, was that as media sources have diversified, the power balance between reporters and sources has shifted towards sources. It's similar to how the loss of unions limits workers' negotiating power, or how moving from the group market to the individual market in healthcare radically increases your rates. The number of insiders who can act as sources for major stories has grown much more slowly than the number of news outlets that can publish their info, making it difficult for any individual journalist to play hardball with a source. Fortunately, a few major outlets still retain some trust from the public and the ability to drive the news agenda, and so everyone leaks to them. But if the journalistic landscape is replaced with hundreds of vigorously competing low-budget outlets, none of them are going to have any leverage at all, and sycophancy will predominate even worse than it does now, IMHO.

In addition, while many new media sites like TPM do try hard to be accurate, few to none try to be neutral, and I do think that neutrality is a good thing, if only because it helps readers to trust you, which, again, is important if news outlets are going to have any leverage against their sources.
posted by gsteff at 11:54 PM on July 24, 2009 [20 favorites]


You know what I really want?

I want an e-paper device. maybe the size of a folded out tabloid or 1/2 of a folded out newspaper page. I want it to be flexible enough to roll up and carry with me. I want it to deliver to me, by subscription (perhaps paid, perhaps free-with-increased-ads) the newspapers I want to read. I want it delivered to me wirelessly, automatically.

I'd pay Kindle prices for such a device, and $5 month for any publication I subscribe to. I'd love to convert my New Yorker and Atlantic subs and other magazine subs to such a device, as well a NYT and my local paper, plus the independent "free" rag. Let me read e-books on it as well, and all the better.

Oh, and can I have a pony, too?
posted by hippybear at 11:57 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anyone else have a local paper exposing wrongdoing within the community? Or does anyone else on the Blue even read their local paper?

There is a Murdoch owned "local rag" called the Community News which is just ad-filled junk, and I'd suspect 80% of the articles are infomercials pretending to be articles.

Then there's the independent local rag The Voice which is an absolute ball tearer. Well written, witty, and it's not afraid to do its own investigations and seriously rock the boat. Strangely, the Murdoch owned paper hardly ever seems to do the same.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:58 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


(and then there's the question -- how would restoring the Fairness Doctrine affect a lot of this landscape?)
posted by hippybear at 11:59 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


new media sites like TPM do try hard to be accurate

That's funny.
posted by Mblue at 12:00 AM on July 25, 2009


New owners of the Onion, Yu Wan Mei, wade into the argument with an interesting new business model for newspapers.
posted by johnny novak at 12:19 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because DRM, now there is a proven winner.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:20 AM on July 25, 2009


the paywalls will go away, as they always do, the moment newspapers see everyone getting along just fine without them. even if they bleed money, someone will prop them up just for the bully pulpit.
posted by mullingitover at 12:20 AM on July 25, 2009


Or, you know, we could go to Starbucks once less each month.

You can go to starbucks -1 times a month?... Okay, okay im not that obtuse. They provide a useful service their in the process of being replaced by an immature industry of electronically distributed news. We'll lose nothing but the experienced news reporters and perhaps fewer than we think of them. Bottom line I don't think they can be saved. I don't think its catastrophic if we lose them. News and analysis are valuable commodities, the reasons why magazines and newspapers exist is because of that value . There will continue to be news services who will get there value out of providing the latest in events. But they may no longer make that money providing that to public content providers . I wouldn't go to eat one less time a week for them.They are a business if they don't provide me with a service at a price I'm willing to pay... How is that my fault? Why am I obligated to them as though newspapers are great public benfactors. And if they stopped online dist. of stories CNN still exists. People would twitter it nothing would be lost.

PS. I think the neutrality argument and the investigative journalism argument have a very interesting confluence when you look at partisan politics. Too often I think the modern newspaper perfers to retain its neutrality then to get down into the muck and see to its public responsibilities . I think that ultimately what blogs lose in high ground they make up for in immediacy and in a lack of any sort of a high horse that newspapers seem to be stuck on.
posted by Rubbstone at 12:27 AM on July 25, 2009


how would restoring the Fairness Doctrine affect a lot of this landscape?

I think you'd have a hard time making the Fairness Doctrine stick to modern media; it was held to be constitutional when applied to TV and radio, because they make use of a public resource (the spectrum) and operate with extremely limited competition. However, it was struck down (unanimously) when applied to newspapers, since they're privately operated and applying the doctrine to them would be an unacceptable abridgement of First Amendment rights.

So newspapers are already exempt, and if you wanted to regulate web sites in such a way, you'd have to argue that they're more akin to traditional fixed-spectrum broadcast media than a newspaper. That seems like a bit of a stretch ... if anything, the internet is far more open to competition than newspapers ever have been; it's more like people standing on a streetcorner and handing out broadsides.

The Fairness Doctrine is a threat to talk radio, but that's pretty much it; I don't see its resurrection (which seems unlikely) shaping the newspaper issue much. And frankly, I don't think it would stomp out ultra-conservative talk radio the way some of its proponents think it would; if anything I think you'd drive many of those listeners onto podcasts or other unregulated media, where there are truly no limits to extremism.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:29 AM on July 25, 2009


I've done some consulting on this subject, and I don't think pay walls are 'the answer', though they can and do provide some extra revenue for specific types of information from certain providers, e.g. the FT makes good money selling financial information. A pay wall to access the Sun is a wholly different matter. In the end I supect that news providers will need to develop multiple revenue streams, e.g. Fantasy Football leagues, online bingo, dating, etc. Most, however, haven't moved quickly enough to do so and are now in trouble, (see Clay Shirky on glaciers).

p.s. Nieman Journalism Lab is a great resource if you really want more background on the transition to digital.
posted by johnny novak at 12:37 AM on July 25, 2009


I almost can't fathom how they manage to research, write, edit, print, and deliver a paper for the amount they charge me.

They don't. Most of the revenue from newspapers comes not from subscriptions but from advertising. If you were charged the actual production cost every morning, you'd be complaining it's too expensive.
posted by dw at 12:48 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, maybe I'm living in an odd place then. But in recent memory, the local newspapers here in Spokane has done extensive investigation into financial dealings involving the city and a parking garage which went awry, has done in-depth investigation into the hypocrisy of a former mayor, and has dug deep into a lot of other hidden pieces of corporate malfeasance.

Meanwhile here in Seattle in the past three months you've had investigative stories broken by the West Seattle Blog, the Post-Globe blog run by ex-PI journalists, and The Stranger, all of which the Seattle Times had to reference when they wrote their stories on them.

And now you have InvestigateWest, a non-profit that's going to sell investigative stories to West Coast media outlets, coming online, and Spot.Us, the pay-for-the-investigation-you-want non-profit, talking about expanding to Seattle later this year. And Publicola, a state/local government news site, has poached a couple of big Seattle/Olympia reporters and their Rolodexes.

For as much as a few of us were talking about Seattle as a no newspaper town earlier this year, it certainly seems like journalism in Seattle is more robust than ever, even if no one is getting paid to write anything. And at the same time you've got "concerned citizens" demanding open records and digging around whatever state and local info they can find, essentially being their own Woodwards and Bernsteins.

Journalism is not dead. It's the newspaper business model that's dead.
posted by dw at 12:59 AM on July 25, 2009 [14 favorites]


Ok a few of my basic thoughts on papers:

1. Local papers need to focus more on local news and do a much better job of giving a description of the community in a real comprehensive way.

2. The broadsheet format is fucking retarded. I'm 27, my dad was a newspaper editor, and I have no clue how the hell you are supposed to read those things. You try it on the bus or train and the light makes the thin news sheet impossible to even read and you have 10 different pages all over that you need to fold this way and that and ads fall out everywhere. Tabloid layout please, I don't care if you think it makes you look unserious.

3. I'm not paying for your online content unless it is something really cool like Metafilter, Something Awful, or Fark. (All of which I have paid for, none of which really do reporting, but they have lots of entertaining people who point out cool stories)

If it is just news, well, come on guys I already pay for cable and that comes with A LOT of news content. Yeah, it isn't really good, but it is there and their profits from TV pay for their own free websites. I don't think CNN is going to go along with the pay plan, why the hell should they?

4. David Simon, of all fucking people, telling us about how much we should treasure papers? I must have misinterpreted the last season of "The Wire", because the moral of the story to me seemed to be that papers were already dead as a real news source.

5. Just because online sources generally don't yet do comprehensive original reporting does not mean they won't. There is no reason they can't. Many bloggers already do, many papers are going to all online formats.

There is nothing magical about printing the news on paper, once they are gone there will be new news organizations online because there is a market for information.

Someone just has to figure out how to convince people to pay for it. Maybe it will be the Washington Post or the Times. Or maybe it will be someone totally out of left field, did anyone expect Apple to be the one to figure out how to get people to pay for music online?

Hell, maybe news can be Steve Jobs next project.

6. There was never any mythical time in American history when newspaper journalism had some golden age of truth and objectivity. The printing presses of our revolution are remembered for things like the satire and wit of Franklin and often anonymous pamphleteers arguing about politics. The blogging community bears a striking resemblance to that time in some ways.

In contrast, our modern journalists who cheered on the Iraq war just remind us of the time of Hearst ginning up another unjustified war.

I think a little bloodletting of that industry will do us good.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:07 AM on July 25, 2009 [4 favorites]


Detroit lost .
There is steepled knees. ? Fantastic un-Plastic
posted by Mblue at 1:16 AM on July 25, 2009


And it seems like once a month I have this whole conversation. And what it comes down to is this:

The actual original, local content a newspaper offers is a minority of a print newspaper's content, and much of it is already available for free online from sources besides themselves.

Charging for content article by article (the so-called "iTunes model") fails because news is fungible and disposable, where music is less fungible and far more sticky (i.e. you buy a song, you keep it and listen to it repeatedly; you don't read an article over and over again for years to come save the very rare "timeless" ones.)

Charging for content with a paywall fails because news, ultimately, is fungible. Paying $5/month to read the AP wire on the NY Times doesn't make sense when the Podunk Hog Caller will still give it to you for free or for some incredible discount. (And really, it'll work in reverse -- the metro dailies with scale will be able to charge squat, crushing the suburban and tertiary market dailies who will have to charge more.)

The only way for newspaper companies to solve this problem is to get an anti-trust exemption and have every paper agree to put a paywall up. But that will never happen for three reasons: One, because no one would allow such a trust to be set up; two, doing so just invites a local TV station to invest their money in journalists who can compete with the papers -- and provide that content for free since they have TV ads to support it; and three, it won't stop the bloggers from blogging about the news of their neighborhood, or local politics, or local food/drink, all of which will undercut the unique content of the sinister newspaper cabal.

Ultimately, there's a solution out there for sustainable journalism. Unfortunately, we're a decade away from that, and in the meantime we'll be feeling around in the dark looking for the killer business model.

I did two "future of journalism" events here in Seattle back in the first half of the year, and after four hours of debating and talking, the only conclusion I could come to was that last point -- there's going to be a lot of feeling around in the dark, and there's no "magic bullet." Heck, it's probably like alternative energy -- there will be many solutions and no single thing to save it.

But it's clear that David Simon is thrashing around in the dark looking for anything he can swing over his head, and that paywalls, as they are constructed and as the newspapers are currently constructed, simply won't work. They'll charge too much for too little.
posted by dw at 1:17 AM on July 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


It sounds weird to say it, but journalism is really the one industry where you really need the market to take care of things on its own. Newspapers emerged in the 17th century because businessmen were willing to pay for information. In the 18th century, they thrived because the bourgeois were willing to pay for political news, literary essays, and scandal. In the 19th century, they were successful because lots of people became more and more involved with politics and every party in every town wanted its own newspaper. With investigative reporting, ditto for the 20th. We're an information-addicted culture--we'll find a way to do things and make them pay without supporting a parasitic, sycophantic zombie industry. The fact that blogs don't do reporting now is in large part due to the fact that there are already well-paid people in powerful companies doing that, so there's little they can contribute. You really think they won't step up the minute there's a vacuum? You don't trust people enough.
posted by nasreddin at 1:38 AM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


On the other hand I love this graphic. Why are "news consumers" illustrated as a database with a "warning" icon? Is the AP secretly planning to replace us all with PHP scripts backed by MySQL databases, who will continuously be shocked at the goings on in the world (thus the warning indicator?)

Yeah, that graphic is a little confusing. I think that the "news consumer" in that graphic is the person above the text with the laptop and coffee. The database with the "warning" icon is the "news registry".
posted by Pendragon at 1:53 AM on July 25, 2009


Oh, and anyone who's interested in this issue should read Jeffrey Pasley's The Tyranny of Printers. Basically, the situation in 1790s America was the mirror image of today. The majority of subscriptions were never paid for, because the readers were too remote and collecting money from them was too difficult. Printers borrowed articles from each other; most of any given paper was borrowed material. You had two general categories of newspaper printers:

a) Joe Federalist, with big pockets, government connections, and economies of scale.
b) Bill Democratic-Republican, a fly-by-night firebrand loner type who never made a profit and was constantly being sued for libel by Federalist politicians and their newspaper cronies.

Remind you of anything? Remember what happened to the Federalist Party?
posted by nasreddin at 2:13 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I really don't get is why newspapers in America are putting all their content online in the first place. Why not just put some stories up and keep the majority for the print edition, which someone would then duly purchase at a newsagent?
posted by cmonkey at 2:35 AM on July 25, 2009


It seems to me that this just a question of how much income these corporations think they are entitled to, as opposed to how much income the reality of Internet-age media will allow. It will probably take a generation or two before media corporations truly understand the fact that they can no longer limit the number of copies of their products and therefore extract huge profit margins on them.
posted by moonbiter at 2:57 AM on July 25, 2009


It's also worth remembering that newspapers are much more than simple content providers, many play a significant, and often not very pleasant, role in the way we are governed, wielding significant political power on behalf of various vested interests, none of whom are too happy about the diminishment of this power.
posted by johnny novak at 3:01 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remember what happened to the Federalist Party?

They took over the Supreme Court.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:02 AM on July 25, 2009


It's becoming a rather elegant study on "what the market will bear."

Whatever the future looks like, I have serious doubts that given the present quality of public discourse—outrage, smear campaigns, Sarah Palin, censored war coverage, TV news as state propaganda, and so on—any but the most cynical could credibly look back and say, "Oh, how elegant! I love how the market just makes things work."
posted by avianism at 3:52 AM on July 25, 2009


Any guilt I may have once felt about pirating the Corner & all 5 seasons of the Wire is now completely erased.

And after reading the above comment, any resentment I might have once had about buying the five-season DVD set of The Wire is now completely erased. God forbid I should pay for copies of something that took millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man-hours to produce, let alone feel indignant or even offended for being asked to pay.

Off to buy my Saturday paper and morning coffee (not Starbucks)...
posted by spoobnooble at 4:39 AM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


In defense of good papers:
The NY Times did not try that. They tried to have pay for viewing op ed pages, not the whole paper.
TV is not news. It is a huge batch of ads wityh people babbling about this and that but no focus on simply what took place. All commentary and little news.

Virtually all magazines, unless designed (Slte) for free online reading, give some free stuff and charge for other items, usually the best, as for example: New Yorker, Atlantic etc If they can do it technically so then papers too.

Wall Street Journal charges for online and is making money doing so.
posted by Postroad at 5:02 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to me that the primary argument over how to 'save' journalism is over how to charge for content that no one is willing to pay for. Oh, sure - you'll donate five bucks a month (or even a week, you big spender you), but what happens when the content at a free site is better (or at least more entertaining)? You'll go there, and you'll stop paying five bucks per month (or a week, you profligate consumerist bastard you) for something you can legally get for free.

If a New York Times or a Washington Post wants to save their hide, they might want to try something novel, like instead of trying to sell the content generated by their journalists, sell the right to be called a Times or Post journalist. Want some serious street cred to go with your blog? Send a $500 application fee and some sample work from your blog to the editorial crew at the Post, and if they approve of your work, you'll get an official Washington Post ID card. You'll also be getting a 50$ a month bill for membership dues (pretty cheap for being able to put the Post's logo on your blog), and the name recognition of the Washington Post behind you when you walk your unknown blogging ass into City Hall. The big name papers then become largely editorial staffs that do the vetting for applications and keep an eye on member blogs to make sure they're not hurting the brand. The blogs make their money either by pay per click, donations, or the way a lot of them already work - the blood, sweat and tears of the blogger.

The beauty is it doesn't attempt to sell something that's already free everywhere else. The public gets their journalists (good, bad, driven and lazy - just like now), and the papers continue to exist, by marketing their names instead of just their content.

Just an idea, while I drink coffee and try to wake up...
posted by Pragmatica at 5:04 AM on July 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


This is such an American concern. Nobody in the UK or Australia or any one of a bunch of other countries is particularly worried that because some newspaper profits are down, it will mean the death of quality news.
Tax payer funded news sources like the BBC or ABC (in Oz) or even PBS in the US will continue to do quality news reporting, including extremely high quality investigative reporting. It seems these concerns are pretty much a bunch of print journalists upset that the world no longer owes them a living.
Now I love the newspaper, I am delighted I can read the NYT for free online, but when they had stuff behind a pay wall I went without. And I am a lot more interested in what they have to say than Joe Public. It's sad that some newspapers will have to fold, but if nobody values what they do enough to pay for it, and there is no will to support it for the public good, then that is reality. Check out the BBC or Al Jazeera for your news.
posted by bystander at 5:05 AM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


But what newspapers still do "in-depth investigative journalism"?

Oddly enough, the local newspapers still do local journalism, especially some of the alt-weeklies.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:07 AM on July 25, 2009


The NY Times did not try that. They tried to have pay for viewing op ed pages, not the whole paper.

Wrong. They used to charge for the whole paper. Then they move to the timeselect model, then they gave up on that too.
posted by delmoi at 5:14 AM on July 25, 2009


Obviously the solution is to crossbreed Hunter Thompson and Warren Ellis; I seem to recall that producing some high-quality journalism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:45 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think David Simon makes some good points, but isn't entirely right. This erases any guilt I may have felt at pirating 2/5 of The Wire.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:07 AM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


the times just gave up their "select" paywall, I don't see how they could already think about going back in spite of having come to the conclusion it didn't work for them.

there is no scarcity of news on the web. you pay for a newspaper because you have to pay for all newspapers worth their salt and there is no other choice. one, two, ten news websites charging would still leave a plethora of free options. you can't charge with that kind of competition, not even if you are the nyt, which is why select was mostly charging for op-ed columnists and the likes.

I don't believe this is going to happen for the nyt. I see pledge drives.
posted by krautland at 6:11 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]



Also, newspaper apologists completely ignore the existence of TV news. Many local stations have websites with plenty of text news articles. CNN and Foxnews have tons of text content online.


Actually, most TV news gets its story ideas by reading the newspapers and magazines or the AP and then sending people to interview the people the print reporters dug up, a few days later-- or just reposting the AP text. Occasionally, they do their own investigations, but they are usually so afraid of being sued that they prefer to have the story in print first before they do so. If you actually read newspapers and then watch TV news, you can see this very clearly.

Btw, the idea that selling "you can be a New York Times reporter" would work is absurd: that would turn it from a legitimate news source with credibility into a vanity press, with none, no matter how much they vetted people. And like vanity publishing, it would involve rich people paying to publish material that they couldn't sell to a real publisher-- rather than paying people to do work that has value.
posted by Maias at 6:29 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


The broadsheet format is fucking retarded. I'm 27, my dad was a newspaper editor, and I have no clue how the hell you are supposed to read those things. You try it on the bus or train and the light makes the thin news sheet impossible to even read and you have 10 different pages all over that you need to fold this way and that and ads fall out everywhere.

Well if even Andy Rooney is willing to pay for a MetaFilter account, at least I know this site is safe.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:48 AM on July 25, 2009


Btw, the idea that selling "you can be a New York Times reporter" would work is absurd: that would turn it from a legitimate news source with credibility into a vanity press, with none, no matter how much they vetted people.

Oh, quite possibly. I think it would depend in large part on how it was marketed (like pretty much everything else), but my point was that it's silly to try and figure out a way to sell what's being given away two clicks further down. Journalistic integrity be damned- if someone's giving away what you're trying to sell and packaging it better, you're doing to be broke soon.

When that happens, the absurd has an interesting way of starting to sound good.
posted by Pragmatica at 7:00 AM on July 25, 2009


The NY Times and Washington Post are going bankrupt AND working together would be illegal for anti-trust reasons--because it would be anticompetitive? I don't think so.

3. I'm not paying for your online content unless it is something really cool like Metafilter, Something Awful, or Fark. (All of which I have paid for, none of which really do reporting, but they have lots of entertaining people who point out cool stories)\

Was this a joke? You'd pay for Fark but not a national newspaper? You are not the target audience.

The Times and Post have broad audiences that include people who do not wish to create a virtual replacement by finding bits and pieces of content on other sites (even if that were possible, which it isn't at the moment). The Times on-line actually does a good job: the supplemental material like graphics and video are great. Yes people can go to free alternatives but at a cost (convenience, quality, etc.). So, you're paying one way or another.

I would rather give the NY Times the $5/month.
posted by cogneuro at 7:25 AM on July 25, 2009


I've been paying for premium access to Salon for years. I don't see what that model couldn't work.
posted by oddman at 7:41 AM on July 25, 2009


Who will do the in-depth investigative journalism when the newspapers go away?

I'm not sure you're asking the right question here. Based on Americans' prevailing attitudes towards news and their news consumption habits, I think a better question is: How do we get Americans to value investigative journalism? For example (from Pew Center for the People & the Press):
When Americans get the news, they generally are interested in getting an overview of the top news of the day. Fully 62% say it is more important to them to get an overview of the news than to get news about topics of particular interest to them (27%)...

Somewhat more Americans now say they are the kind of person who checks in on the news from time to time rather than gets the news at regular times (51% vs. 45%)...Compared with news grazers, people who get news at regular times also are more likely to read traditional print publications - daily newspapers and weekly community papers. But news grazers are far more likely to regularly go online for news. About six-in-ten (59%) of those who get news from time to time go online for news at least three days a week; that compares with 39% of those who get news at regular times.*
It seems to me that this, compared with Americans' steadily declining trust in *all* news sources means that charging more for news is not going to help, because the kind of deep reporting that many people in this thread are talking about (and for the record, I agree that it is important) is just not valued the same way by the majority of the news audience in this country.

I said this in another recent thread about journalism, but when I talk to my students (college, studying media) about journalism as the Fourth Estate, they look at me like I'm crazy. I think the idea that journalism is supposed to be the watchdog for the public has largely passed out of the public's consciousness, and really all people want is to be told the quick basic facts of what happened/is happening today.

Market forces are at work, but they are not working in the direction that we might like.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:53 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to subscribe to the dead tree editions of papers. I loved reading papers since I was a little kid. When the web came along, I pretty much started reading papers online. For a while I'd get the papers still but they'd just go directly from the porch to the recycle bin so I cut that step out.

Now, the only time I get a dead tree paper is when it is on my door handle at a hotel or handed out on an airplane.

Speaking of newspapers given away at hotels, I think it really was USA Today that signed the modern newspaper's death warrant. Rather than being an in-depth researched recap of news of the day and investigation, papers across the country went to mimic the short McNews and pretty charts. Cable news wounded it . The internet came along later and is finishing the job.

I'm not averse to paying for good content. That's why I spent hundreds a year buying the NYTimes print edition years ago. That's why I paid for TimesSelect. If the Times starts charging again, I'll pay again. I'm not going to pay for my local paper's site though. The quality of the reporting isn't there. If they step up their game, I'll take out my wallet.
posted by birdherder at 7:56 AM on July 25, 2009


So now the news will be only for those who can afford it. I am a news whore and junky and right now I wouldn't pay for my news, can't. Besides if the Times charges I'll just get my news only from the free blogs. That would be bad.
posted by GratefulDean at 8:05 AM on July 25, 2009


Metafilter: your unknown blogging ass
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:11 AM on July 25, 2009


The paywall has totally destroyed the Financial Times. Totally. They're on the verge of bankruptcy, and they're more irrelevant than ever. /snark
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:18 AM on July 25, 2009


Who will do the in-depth investigative journalism when the newspapers go away?

people will just make up their own information - they already do

the thing discussions like this miss is that those in power need some kind of way to shape public opinion - and if they have to take a loss on the media they use to do so, it's still worth it to them - and they'll eventually realize this

it may even be that some investigative journalism, such as against governments or competitors, will survive

it's not a very desirable situation - nor is it all that different than what goes on now - but if the blogosphere lacks a source of news and information to comment on, much of it will just start making stuff up - look at the truthers and the birthers for examples

the power structure is going to realize that creating a vacuum of information just means that others will rush in with misinformation

it's my prediction that eventually newspapers and tv media will be operated at a loss by those who want to influence the public and prevent conspiracy theorists from "informing" them
posted by pyramid termite at 8:31 AM on July 25, 2009


oh, and my local tv stations are laying off news employees like crazy, so that's not a working alternative
posted by pyramid termite at 8:32 AM on July 25, 2009


My god, the AP infographic is amazing in the worldview it presents. News would not be simple text, but a package to be downloaded, with metadata and a tracking "beacon." These packages rattle through the tubes, being used only as the DRM would allow.

"Meanwhile, the tracking beacon sends signals back to the news registry informing publishers of uses and opportunities."

I am looking forward to news piracy charges. Oh, and the magical "mashups," because what's better than the plain news? Autotuned news.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:32 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, newspaper apologists completely ignore the existence of TV news. Many local stations have websites with plenty of text news articles. CNN and Foxnews have tons of text content online.
posted by delmoi at 2:07 AM on July 25 [+] [!]


It may appear to you that they have their own content. But look very carefully at many TV sites--they're little more than rehashes of what newspapers have reported. It's pretty fascinating to watch a story wend its way through the various media platforms--usually newspaper to wire services, to site aggregators and TV. Virtually nothing flows the other way, unless you count TV entertainment "news." By no means am I saying that no bloggers are finding news but for the routine the mayor said this, x number of people were killed in a traffic accident, your town is out of money, etc., no one is covering that fully other than daily newspapers. You know, the stuff you need to function in your community, and the 15 minutes of local news on your TV, which usually covers a wider metropolitan area, not your town, is never going to provide it. Neither are the handful of local bloggers who mostly focus on niche issues--politics, occasionally educational issues, etc.
posted by etaoin at 8:49 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Once again the internet is really good at shouting out 'you need a new business model' but not so good at finding an answer. Given that now everyone just expects things for free (and some of the posts here have just left me gob smacked) I'm sure newspapers will die, and we'll all be poorer for it.

It's already happening here in the UK. Papers and TV stations are pulling more and more stories off the wires (though how much longer the AP and Reuters can survive is anyone's guess) and having less and less correspondents. The Telegraph, on the one hand waving the flag for investigative journalism in the MPs expenses scandal, is, at the same time, shedding jobs and getting reporters to make up new bylines to AP stories in an attempt to pass it off as their own work.

Worse still is happening at ITN, the major news broadcaster (alongside the BBC) here in the UK. They hardly even bother covering foreign news stories anymore unless they really have to. Many of my friends work there, or at least used to, and those who are left can't wait to get out. There's no money and they can't cover the stories they want to, the station just isn't interested.

The trouble with declining standards in journalism is you don't really notice they're happening until it's too late. I like to be informed about what's going on in the rest of the world, and by somebody whose job it is to know about these things, somebody who can read the situation and give me the best information possible, in short, someone I can trust. And I'm more than happy to pay for that.

Take the newspapers, AP, Reuters and Press Assoc away from google news and there's not going to be an awful lot on there I'd care to read.
posted by ciderwoman at 9:00 AM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know, I don't think David Simon's a villain here. I'd like to see print newspapers survive: I'm old, and I hate to see to little pieces of my younger world swirl towards oblivion. I wish him well, but I think he's fighting a losing battle.

I think it's a lost cause, because as Delmoi pointed out above "The idea that they would somehow run out of content if newspapers stopped reporting is silly." I'm not talking about TPM or HuffPo here, either. Even locally to me, the TV stations are putting out more stories than the local paper, and the blogs don't base much on the local daily.

Hippybear askes "Who will do the in-depth investigative journalism when the newspapers go away?" but hell, where I am, the newspaper doesn't do investigative journalism now. In my most local community (at the town council level), the newspaper can barely be bothered to report anything at all about it. The only people doing any digging into the actions of the incumbent (Democratic) board are the Republican party and an ambitious Democrat looking to unseat someone in the next primary. When it was a Republican board, it was the local Democrats and an embittered ex-Republican-councilman performing that same function. It wasn't the paper. The best that the paper may do is a one-paragraph quote, while the axe-grinding blogs post entire FOI responses, and the opposing party does mass mailings. I really wish we had a healthy newspaper to wade in and try and separate the wheat from the chaff, but I don't have that now. On the metro level, the paper is summarizing duelling presss releases from the mayor and the county executive, without the least effort to evaluate them.

So, yeah, I'll be sad and nostalgic when that paper dies, but it's not going to make a difference in the landscape of public knowledge and discourse. In a few major metros, yeah, there may be enough actual journalism going on to make something worth saving, but it's few and far between.

That said, I don't think Simon's an idiot, either. He knows this. He doesn't have some rosy view here that it's all simple and easy to change the way the Internet works. He's just advocating putting everything into a long-shot bet, because that's the only hope left for these institutions, and then drawing a brave face onto it.

I hope it works. I'd bet against him, but I hope our "great metropolitan newspapers" can find a niche for themselves.
posted by tyllwin at 9:14 AM on July 25, 2009


SBJ cheerleads for an innocuous digital media environment like no one else. Good for him, not so great for everyone else.
posted by lslelel at 9:23 AM on July 25, 2009


Who will do the in-depth investigative journalism when the newspapers go away? ...

Who's doing it now? Who did it in the lead-up to the Iraq War?


I don't think this point can be stated strongly enough. As far as the USA goes, government officials and others manipulating evidence to create a war in Iraq was *the* major story of this decade. The NYT and WP reporters had better access to government officials and evidence than anyone in the country. And they completely blew it.

Any "real" reporting on leadup to the Iraq war was offered by first-person sources or international press. So ... what's the point of the NYT again? A frivolous Style section and bloviation in the op-eds? They tried charging for op-eds (by far the most popular articles) and failed badly.

Journalism is not dead. It's the newspaper business model that's dead.

Amen.

Once again the internet is really good at shouting out 'you need a new business model' but not so good at finding an answer.

That's not our job. That's the businesses' job. Our job is to tell David Simon and the AP that not enough people will pay for news online to save the existing major newspapers. They can use that opinion as they wish ...

Those of you who believe that saving these newspapers is so important, why not start a fund-raising drive? Donate 10% of your salary to your local newspaper and encourage others to do the same. All they need is money. Those people who think the newspapers are so important should give it to them, and the rest of us will read the results for free.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:26 AM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, these are certainly better ideas than having a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist and wife of a US Senator write about changing the First Amendment to protect newspapers from other people linking to their content.
posted by sciurus at 9:30 AM on July 25, 2009


Newspapers do matter, Princeton study finds

Yes, this is a blog entry, but it does a good job of summarizing the study.

You know why I don't want newspapers to become obsolete? Because I happen to work at one and I do not wish to become unemployed. It's that simple for some of us.

Because so many of us, at the local level at least, are trying to do our jobs the way they should be done but we have to deal with a boss, a boss' boss, and so on, just like many other industries. It can be hard to tell the stories you want to tell. Any journalist working at a paper for at least 6 months understands those battles. Yet we should ALL be "punished" for that, if I'm reading the general public's mindset correctly.

People's entitlement about getting their news for free does have a real and directly negative impact on many people's lives, people who truly don't deserve it.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:02 AM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


As if the happy horseshit they're pushing wasn't bad enough, I can't get over the horrid design on AP's proposed scheme. Barely a step above a yard sale or office party flyer, it doesn't inspire confidence in their DRM-larded scheme.

Really, this is the best they could do? It barely deserves to be called half-assed - I doubt anyone even looked at this closely before it was published (note that the word 'beacon' in the digital container blurb is obscured by a non-transparent graphic on an upper layer). Jeez, AP.
posted by porn in the woods at 10:05 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


The newspaper people often note that newspapers benefit society as a whole. This is true, but irrelevant to the problem at hand; “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model.

-- Clay Shirky, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable
posted by isnotchicago at 10:07 AM on July 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


what percentage of the public even reads local papers? It can't be all that many.

Probably a bit higher than the percentage of people who actually get involved with local politics in a real way. I can't speak for everywhere, but in my city, the people who don't bother getting involved are, for the most part, reaping huge benefits from the work of those who do. And the people who do read newspapers, and usually with a pretty critical eye.

Also, what hippybear said x 1000.

Journalism has always been a battleground, and when people are content to paint all news workers with the same brush - as if there aren't journalists who also abhor the dominant trends in the industry - it shows they just haven't really ever bothered to think about it.

The sorts of people who wrote the FPP proposal are blind to the fact that the real problem isn't so much dwindling revenue as the belief that the people at the top raking in millions still deserve to make those millions. But out-of-hand dismissals of the suggestion that - gasp - maybe we should sometimes have to pay for things which we value as a society aren't helping figure out a better, more demoratic way of getting time and resources in the hands of people inclined to deal real reporting.

Let me put it this way, MeFi free-as-in-beer hipsters, if only for the entertaining cognitive dissonance : right now, if dead tree newspapers, which you hate, go away, all that's left to fill the void is Boing Boing and HuffPo, which you hate. Where's your snarky god now?
posted by regicide is good for you at 10:24 AM on July 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


wendell has it: Newspaper Journalism as it was practiced in the U.S. has NEVER paid for itself.

This is a true, verified, documented fact. So what bugs me is why people continue to ask the question of paying for news? News has mostly been a loss leader: it was given for a token because it attracted eyeballs and these eyeballs, not the news, where then sold to advertisers.

So, what is broken on the web is not the "money for news" (that has not existed in the recent past), it's the "money for eyeballs" one.

All the questions about the need for good journalism, for in depth reporting, for democracy yada yada are moot. Journalism is not the question. Paying for journalism is not the question.

The real question is "why the money for eyeballs model doesn't work so well on the web?" It has worked for dailies, magazines, radio, tv, cable but not on the web. WTF is going on? What is so different about the web that it breaks an old, tried and true model?

It is not a journalism question. It's a marketing question: it's about the relationship between advertisers and consumers. So I know that a lot of Mefites are more or less in the communication business on the content side, but the people I would like to hear about are those who are in the business of communication on the marketing side: retailers, vp sales and marketing, CEOs, advertisers, ad agency media strategists. Where are they in this debate? It's their machine that's broken, not the journalistic one.

It's about extracting money from advertisers in exchange for providing a link to consumers. If this link is broken on the web, how else can you monetize it? So I would like to see the money people scramble and show what their MBAs have taught them about commerce and sales and marketing. I have a lot of respect for them but, for now, they are not the one who seem to be worried, who explore and propose new solutions. Where are you?
posted by bru at 10:26 AM on July 25, 2009 [11 favorites]


The last time I saw numbers for the Wall Street Journal, they were losing money in their online operations. If anyone has newer numbers showing a profit, I'd be interested seeing that.

Until then, I don't believe that the hiding their content and making themselves irrelevant on Google is making money for the WSJ.
posted by NortonDC at 10:31 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Journalism has always been a battleground, and when people are content to paint all news workers with the same brush - as if there aren't journalists who also abhor the dominant trends in the industry - it shows they just haven't really ever bothered to think about it.

Look, if they're so bothered by the dominant trends, they should be joining the new-media crowd instead of scoffing at them. Help create online newsrooms where no advertiser or politician will ever squelch a story and where beat reporters have the chance to have a meaningful influence on the way things are run. As long as you aren't making affirmative steps to support non-corrupt new forms of civil society, you deserve to go down with the sinking ship. Put your money where your mouth is.
posted by nasreddin at 10:38 AM on July 25, 2009


bru, we had a lot of discussions about this in the film world in a thread a while back (it's the business I work in) and I can tell you a lot of people are spenidng huge amounts of time trying to find new ways to adapt.

The sad thing is they're not having a whole heap of luck at the moment. Who knows, maybe with everyone on the web just expecting it all for free there actually isn't a decent new business model.

It seems right now we're in a having your cake and eat it golden age where old models are providing content and the internet is helping give that away for free. Sadly I don't think that will last and we'll be left with an awful lot of free stuff that just isn't worth all that much.

Although the person I agree withmost in the thread is Effigy2000, I too would pay any subscription they asked for an online newspaper provided they banned user comments. I really don't need to know what my redneck neighbours think.
posted by ciderwoman at 10:42 AM on July 25, 2009


Look, if they're so bothered by the dominant trends, they should be joining the new-media crowd instead of scoffing at them. Help create online newsrooms where no advertiser or politician will ever squelch a story and where beat reporters have the chance to have a meaningful influence on the way things are run. As long as you aren't making affirmative steps to support non-corrupt new forms of civil society, you deserve to go down with the sinking ship. Put your money where your mouth is.

My response to that is:

1) There's no money in online journalism.

2) Have you seen how many blogs the New York Times publishes? It's ridiculous. Two years ago, Punch Sulzburger himself said, "I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either."
posted by gsteff at 10:48 AM on July 25, 2009


Er, that quote was from Pinch Sulzberger, i.e. Arthur Ochs, the current publisher.
posted by gsteff at 10:57 AM on July 25, 2009


The problem with this sort of plan is the nature of the internet audience. These websites have a small group of loyal readers who read it fairly often, and a huge cloud of people who are linked to the website or stumble onto it via Google once or twice a month. If you start charging, you'll keep a lot of the first group, but you'll completely eliminate the second, and far larger, group. You're going to lose a ton of viewers, and with it, influence and advertising revenue.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:58 AM on July 25, 2009


Anyone else have a local paper exposing wrongdoing within the community? Or does anyone else on the Blue even read their local paper?

I think most people (of a certain age demographic, anyway, because data seems to show that a lot of people under a certain age just don't bother to read newspapers at all) do read their local paper, despite its shortcomings, but that doesn't equate with reading it because it's a beacon of shining investigative journalism. I read my local rag, the Tennessean, which is okay for what it is, but it's heavily tilted toward, as I said originally, entertainment, music industry press releases, fluff, "human interest" stories, and filler, as well as a generous helping of AP reprints. (I like AP but it is hardly a gold standard of investigative journalism most of the time either.)

My previous local rag, the Contra Costa Times, is owned by MediaNews Group, a huge conglomerate in Denver that also owns the Denver Post, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Detroit News, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and a ton of other newspapers in California, Texas, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and other states. The CC Times was much the same as the Tennessean, with a possibly higher concentration of articles about local crime (and no music industry news, although they do seem to have a beat reporter who does nothing but blog about press releases he's received from Sunset Boulevard or about stuff he's read on the gossip blogs). Media News Group is also notorious for recycling its stories through several newspapers in the same region, so if you pick up a copy of the San Jose Mercury News, you will be reading much the same content as if you pick up the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, and so on.

My previous local rag before that, the Ann Arbor News, just went deep six this week and will now be all online, all the time, because it couldn't find a model to survive. Again, even when it was a Real Newspaper, it was hardly a sterling provider of Fine Local Investigative Journalism itself. I don't think you have to look far to find examples. The challenge is finding exceptions to the rule. If the Spokane Spokesman-Review is an exception, well, you are very fortunate indeed.

I am not disagreeing with you, by the way, that a free press is not a luxury, but in my view, the free press in this country has been in a coma and on life support for decades. And that includes the Big MSM Super-Metropolitan Pulitzer Prize-Winners, too, not just the mid-size and small-town papers.
posted by blucevalo at 10:59 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


ciderwoman, I am following the blogs and tweets of the people who are at the forefront of the business model for news question: @jayrosen_nyu, @jeffjarvis, @cshirky, @yelvington, @stevebuttry, @mathewi, @scottros and 10s of others. Most of them are journalists.

There is no leading people on the business, sales and marketing side participating in the discussion. This is not normal. The main problem is in their own territory but as long as they are not actively exploring and discussing publicly new solutions, they mostly look like they are either unconcerned or entrenched in the old model. This is not good.

Bright people whose knowledge is about following the scent of money are needed. It's their job. Journalists should be interviewing them, not leading the chase. We are doing it because there is nobody else around. Most money people in the news business seem to be on the defensive side whereas they should be leading the search for new models.
posted by bru at 11:00 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


The paywall has totally destroyed the Financial Times. Totally. They're on the verge of bankruptcy, and they're more irrelevant than ever. /snark

There's a huge difference between financial news and city news. Not many people are willing to pay top dollar in order to get an edge in the lucrative, cut-throat planning and zoning board industry.
posted by dw at 11:02 AM on July 25, 2009


I'm not sure you're asking the right question here. Based on Americans' prevailing attitudes towards news and their news consumption habits, I think a better question is: How do we get Americans to value investigative journalism?

I think the idea that journalism is supposed to be the watchdog for the public has largely passed out of the public's consciousness, and really all people want is to be told the quick basic facts of what happened/is happening today.


Yeah, the sad part about all this is the assumption that the audience is the basis for the value of journalism. But it's not. Journalism has a deep benefit even if it doesn't attract a wide audience, simply for its truth-telling nature.

What is that old adage? Journalism is talking about what others want to keep secret; everything else is advertising? Any time matters which some party or other wishes to keep secret in order to exploit that information is made public, even if the audience isn't that broad, it levels the playing field between those entrenched in power and those struggling to make progress against the interests of power. And it may be that the threat of public exposure in the press is all that holds some people back from doing things which really are to the detriment of others.

It's such a complex issue. If we have a watchdog, it isn't about how many pets or how much loving the watchdog gets from those it is guarding. It's about the loud barks, tiny whimpers, and other noises that the watchdog makes which alerts to danger. If only one or two people hear the noises of the watchdog, that can still be enough to stave off disaster.
posted by hippybear at 11:17 AM on July 25, 2009


At least, there is Fred Wilson: Monetize The Audience, Not The Content.
posted by bru at 11:31 AM on July 25, 2009 [2 favorites]



Well if even Andy Rooney is willing to pay for a MetaFilter account, at least I know this site is safe.


I'm quite serious on that, broadsheet format sucks. User Interface is very important nowadays, and no one under thirty can figure out, physically, how you are supposed to read those things.



Was this a joke? You'd pay for Fark but not a national newspaper? You are not the target audience.


Yes, because I can read interesting stories from every newspaper and blog in America on Fark.

Now that I think of it though, what you pay for on sites like Something Awful, Fark, or Metafilter is not really access to content. It is mainly paying for the right to contribute and comment.

Maybe if you combine the ideas above, paying to be a "reporter" for the paper and "Please murder the people who comment at newspaper sites" and combine them into "You have to pay us to comment" there could be a new source of income, though probably not enough to save the industry or anything.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:45 PM on July 25, 2009


If the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times were not getting some substantial margin of benefit from putting their content behind a firewall they wouldn't be doing it. The New York Times didn't find that things worked out with their TimesSelect model, and they charged $7.95 a month. They had 221,000 people willing to pay that price for TimesSelect, but that wasn't enough. I doubt that most regular NYT readers thought it was worth it to have to pay $8 a month to read Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd's op-ed columns.

I don't know what the "right" content-monetization model is. But it's still going to happen, in one way or another. There are a limited number of subscriptions that I would be able to pay $5 a month (or more) for. The New York Times I would pay for. The Washington Post? Probably not. Unfortunately, there is some content that I will have to forego if most papers go the way of the Financial Times.
posted by blucevalo at 1:58 PM on July 25, 2009


It would be interesting to see how much of a drop-off in NYT FPPs on MetaFilter there would be if the NYT put all of its content behind a subscription firewall, as David Simon recommends.
posted by blucevalo at 2:01 PM on July 25, 2009


blucevalo: It would be interesting to see how much of a drop-off in NYT FPPs on MetaFilter there would be if the NYT put all of its content behind a subscription firewall, as David Simon recommends.

I would sincerely hope the drop-off would be immediate and complete. Posting pay articles to sites like this as the main link in a post is a huge faux pas.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:20 PM on July 25, 2009


Posting pay articles to sites like this as the main link in a post is a huge faux pas.

The New Yorker has moved a lot of its content behind a paywall, and I have tried to compose more than a couple FPPs for articles I find there but cannot find online to link to.

So yeah, it does have a quelling effect.
posted by hippybear at 2:58 PM on July 25, 2009


dw: "Most of the revenue from newspapers comes not from subscriptions but from advertising. If you were charged the actual production cost every morning, you'd be complaining it's too expensive."

Right, and I did mention that a sentence later. However, my point is that I think they're underpriced; with some relatively minor changes—concentrating more on in-depth analysis, picking a 'format' to differentiate themselves from the competition, concentrating on a particular market—they could charge more for the product. At least I would be willing to pay more for it, on a per-issue basis, although I'm not sure it would make sense to have it be a daily.

I'd pay the same amount that I currently pay for a daily subscription for a three-times-a-week paper, which would allow them to cut costs tremendously (halving the paper, printing, and delivery/distribution costs), if they used the addition time to increase the depth and quality of the articles, concentrated more on local stuff rather than reprinting a wire feed, etc. (I barely get a chance to read the paper three times a week anyway, so it'd be no great loss.)

Right now, it's like they're trying to target a mass-market audience that just isn't interested, they're losing money, and they heading into a classic "death spiral" by trying to cut costs further. So maybe instead of cutting costs, they should cut back the frequency of distribution—print media hasn't been the medium of choice for breaking, real-time news since before the Hindenberg went down—and work on increasing quality and targeting an up-market audience.

They need to stop racing to the bottom by trying to chase some mythical 'average Joe' reader. Most people don't read the newspaper. If someone doesn't read the newspaper today, as dirt cheap as it is, they're not going to read it at any price. They're never going to be customers: it doesn't make sense to pursue them. Newspapers need to get over the idea that they're a democratic product for the masses; 'the masses' do not read newspapers and haven't in more than a generation. To put it even more bluntly: newspapers are a high-bourgeois product, not a proletarian one, and the faster they understand this the better they'll do. They need to target themselves to consumers who are willing to shell out real money for quality, and stop tearing themselves to pieces trying to capture a market that doesn't care about them or what they offer.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:00 PM on July 25, 2009


Posting pay articles to sites like this as the main link in a post is a huge faux pas.

I was mostly talking about how many NYT FPP articles we see here, occasionally with nothing else other than the link to the NYT article, not so much the pay article consideration. But I agree with your comment.
posted by blucevalo at 3:01 PM on July 25, 2009


So maybe instead of cutting costs, they should cut back the frequency of distribution—print media hasn't been the medium of choice for breaking, real-time news since before the Hindenberg went down

This is exactly right. The NYT and WP should focus exclusively on investigative journalism and in depth reporting with a side order of "local" stuff. Maybe the NYT could have a lot of economic analysis as the home of Wall Street and the Post could do a lot of politics. Whatever. But nobody needs to read about real-time news in the Times or Post. We get that from the television or internet. I am never, ever, under any circumstances going to pay the Times or Post to tell me about things that I already know.

The upside is that investigative journalism and in-depth stories are far less time sensitive. It hardly matters whether a piece that took 6 months to pull together gets published on Monday or Thursday so you could cut down to three times a week publication. Mon - Wed - Fri or Mon - Wed - Sat. Or even twice a week if necessary.

That I'd probably pay for.
posted by Justinian at 3:28 PM on July 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the sad part about all this is the assumption that the audience is the basis for the value of journalism. But it's not. Journalism has a deep benefit even if it doesn't attract a wide audience, simply for its truth-telling nature.

It's not that the audience is the basis for the value of journalism, it's that attitudes like this (from Simon's article)--

Content matters. And you must find a way, in the brave new world of digitization, to make people pay for that content.

--basically require that the audience perceive journalism to be of some value or usefulness to them if they are going to pay for it. There are clearly some people in this thread who are prepared to pay for deep reporting and investigative journalism, but based on all the research I've seen, I don't think they represent the majority of Americans, and with due respect to David Simon, I'm not sure how you coerce Americans into paying for something that they have essentially already said they don't want.

I agree with you that journalism in itself has a benefit to society, but I don't see how it is sustainable as the profit-seeking venture that modern media conglomerates still seem to want.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:40 PM on July 25, 2009


MetaFilter: I don't think they represent the majority of Americans
posted by hippybear at 4:34 PM on July 25, 2009


Yes, it's a difficult thing. If something is beneficial for a population, even if they don't perceive its direct benefit to them because they choose to ignore what that something generates, what steps can be taken to make sure that the beneficial something isn't allowed to die out of supposed disinterest?

Or maybe the American public would be happier without the Press, just to have TMZ and Faux all the time, spouting irrelevant bullshit or manufactured partisan propaganda. It's entirely possible. But then we've all lost, and Huxley's new world will emerge.

A gram is better than a damn, after all.
posted by hippybear at 4:48 PM on July 25, 2009


Looking back at the national press's behavior during the Clinton administration, the 2000 election, and the Iraq war/Bush administration, we are better off without them. TMZ and Faux weren't the only ones spouting bullshit and manufactured Republican propaganda - the New York Times and Washington Post actually did more damage, because they did it too and were supposed to be credible.
posted by rfs at 6:26 PM on July 25, 2009


Once again the internet is really good at shouting out 'you need a new business model' but not so good at finding an answer.

What? The AP plan pretty much ignores the concept of fair use. People shouldn't shout about that? On the one hand, you want people to be informed of and engaged in events in the world around them, but on the other, they should shut up when someone tries to undermine a legal doctrine that is vitally important for oversight and scholarship?

David Simon advocates for two major newspapers to form a cartel and engage in price-fixing. People shouldn't point that out? It should be okay for newspapers to break the law because they can't figure out how to make money legally? It's everyone else's responsibility to hand them a solution?
posted by Ritchie at 6:35 PM on July 25, 2009


So I know that fussy print conventions like proofreading are obsolescent in this new techno-utopian age, but couldn't we please still take the trouble to tell "its" from "it's"?

Hear hear. dyslexictraveler, you might find this useful.
posted by intermod at 8:21 PM on July 25, 2009


The ultimate "paywall" would simply be a NYT or WaPo index.html that read: "We've never made any money on the Web. Accordingly, we're not running a Web site any more. If you'd like to know what our staff thinks is going on in NYC or Washington, we suggest you purchase our print editions, at your local news stand or news vending machine."

Newspapers running eternal cost centers like Web sites, that will never make a dime, is so 1999.

Tough, smart journalists making major bank by putting out the shizz on broadsheet foolscap, only to the cognoscenti that can pay $$$? Totally rad, and so 2010...
posted by paulsc at 1:25 AM on July 26, 2009


Have a careful look at what the WSJ charges for - they don't charge for the whole website, they charge for a limited subset of news that they know has value - and 1.3 million people are prepared to pay for it.
posted by awfurby at 5:09 AM on July 26, 2009


Newspapers running eternal cost centers like Web sites, that will never make a dime, is so 1999.

I think there's still room for web sites, but they'd essentially be loss leaders, tossing out free 'breaking news' and building the brand, so that people might go out and buy the premium edition.

If it was done carefully I think you could make it break even or at least be relatively inexpensive through web ads; web advertising generally is enough to pay for a high-traffic website, it's just not enough to pay for a high-traffic website and a newsroom, editorial staff, print shop, and all the other components of a newspaper. That's why SomethingAwful makes money and the NYT doesn't. You can only live off of web advertising if you have very low overhead, and newspapers have a lot of it. But that "overhead" is also what makes them unique and useful.

The websites could be a fine self-supporting advertising vehicle (in the sense of serving as advertising for the premium service), they're just not going to pay for the rest of the business.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:19 AM on July 27, 2009


for what its worth, I wrote an article about this for FICRY.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:33 AM on July 27, 2009


Rupert is the first media mogul to blink.

Interesting times.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:43 AM on August 11, 2009


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