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Times and Sunday Times websites to charge from June
March 27, 2010 10:52 AM   Subscribe

"The Times and Sunday Times newspapers will start charging to access their websites in June, owner News International (NI) has announced. Users will pay £1 for a day's access and £2 for a week's subscription. The move opens a new front in the battle for readership and will be watched closely by the industry."(BBC) Some early reactions from other newspapers. Interview with Times editor about the charges. Previously
posted by blue funk (87 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Please, oh please Rupert... do this to FoxNews too!)
posted by markkraft at 10:56 AM on March 27, 2010 [24 favorites]


Bye bye.
posted by fire&wings at 10:57 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


(I probably should have put the "Previously" in the [more inside] really. First post!)

Yeah totally with you (on preview) er both of you. My first reaction on hearing about this was pretty much "bye bye" too.
posted by blue funk at 10:59 AM on March 27, 2010


> NI chief executive Rebekah Brooks said it was "a crucial step towards making the business of news an economically exciting proposition".

I've been on tilt a few times. That was "exciting," too.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:03 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Saying that, what with ACTA and the digital economy bill this might be the right time for him (Murdoch) to start charging.

Not that I would like to imply any correlation between legislation being rammed in and this story tho.
Obviously.
*cough*
posted by blue funk at 11:03 AM on March 27, 2010


It stands to reason, though...

Most regular news sources just tell you what's happened. The Times goes to the added trouble of making up sh*t.

Creative talent must be rewarded!
posted by markkraft at 11:04 AM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


While we're waiting for Fox News to go behind a paywall, is there a greasemonkey script that'll excise them from Google News for you?
posted by mullingitover at 11:08 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


good luck with that.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:09 AM on March 27, 2010


First the Economist now the Times. Can't get a conservative view point (for free) anywhere anymore. (yeah, it's Rup, but still a bit more sane than anything from Fox or the WSJ)
posted by Some1 at 11:10 AM on March 27, 2010


It opens a new front? No, I don't think that's what it does.

This is like welding the doors closed from inside a sinking ship, while claiming you'll do fine in your new submarine.
posted by mhoye at 11:10 AM on March 27, 2010 [18 favorites]


Ooh answered my own question. No Fox Google News greasemonkey plugin.
posted by mullingitover at 11:11 AM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Only a rich, greedy fat man like Rupert would try to charge a price for his product?

And hello, it's the internet--it has to be free.
posted by stevenstevo at 11:13 AM on March 27, 2010


Two pounds a week? haha Good luck with that.
posted by graventy at 11:14 AM on March 27, 2010


[[Slight derail I've typo'd "rupertmurdoch" as "rupertmursoch". (Great name for a new account, rupertmursockpuppet?) Can I change that?
I should also probably have noted that it's the Times (London) - there are a lot of Times(es) in the world! /derail]]
posted by blue funk at 11:15 AM on March 27, 2010


Slight derail I've typo'd "rupertmurdoch" as "rupertmursoch".

Just delete the tag with the [x] and add a new correct one.

posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:26 AM on March 27, 2010


Good luck, suckers!
posted by Artw at 11:27 AM on March 27, 2010


There was a good opinion piece in yesterday's Guardian, written by Jeff Jarvis, who teaches journalism at CUNY. Of particular interest was the following quote:
"According to his biographer Michael Wolff, Murdoch has not used the internet, let alone Google (he only recently discovered email)..."

Jesus Christ.
posted by hydatius at 11:27 AM on March 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


I wonder how the whole paid-content debate is going to be affected by the fact that the first person to do it on a mass scale is a press baron who everyone has so many other good reasons to hate. I mean, I kinda hope Murdoch gets egg all over his face, and I kinda hope there's a future for paid content online. Awkward.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:29 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


According to his biographer Michael Wolff, Murdoch has not used the internet, let alone Google (he only recently discovered email)...

I don't have a sophisticated understanding of the technical issues involved, but I'm pretty sure email takes place on the internet.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:30 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks Horace. Had just figured it out myself (wondering what the Xs replacing the numbers were)!

There was a good opinion piece in yesterday's Guardian, written by Jeff Jarvis, who teaches journalism at CUNY. Of particular interest was the following quote:
"According to his biographer Michael Wolff, Murdoch has not used the internet, let alone Google (he only recently discovered email)..."

Jesus Christ.
posted by hydatius


From your link: "So Murdoch has decided to milk his dying cash cow dry, one pound at a time, and leave the future to the rest of us. Poor guy"
Ha!
posted by blue funk at 11:31 AM on March 27, 2010


I don't have a sophisticated understanding of the technical issues involved, but I'm pretty sure email takes place on the internet.

DARE YOU imply that Jeff Jarvis's grasp of the field in which he seeks to establish himself as a visionary leader is somewhat less than perfect???
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:31 AM on March 27, 2010


.
posted by Webbster at 11:32 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course this won't work while you can get your news free at the BBC site... oh hang on whose that waiting in the wings with a big sharp axe? Why it's Tory Boy leading Rupert's stormtroopers...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:43 AM on March 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work."
posted by victors at 11:46 AM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


interesting that he's trying this out overseas (from the bulk of his media empire)...maybe if it fails it won't be brought home.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:15 PM on March 27, 2010


Related to this, an interesting article about The Guardian's approach.

Oh by the way, the article notes that the top UK newspaper sites are The Daily Mail and The Sun... .
posted by ambient2 at 12:28 PM on March 27, 2010


Like most people, I love all the free stuff on the net. I do subscribe to some magazines and papers that are now going behind paywall, and I can fully understand why they do so. Why should I subscribe to a paper if instead I could get it all free , at home, on the net? And then, why should a paper keep losing money and subscribers because people using the net cut into their way of staying in business?

Say goodbye if you will, but you will be left with what blogs put up as "news," regurgitated from what they have read elsewhere.

The net and information want to be free. But those who pay a price for what goes onto the net and into the news want to stay in business and make a living, the way that you expect to be paid for what you do for your organization.
posted by Postroad at 12:33 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why should I subscribe to a paper if instead I could get it all free , at home, on the net?

For me, the answer is because I like to read the paper on the bus to work and during my morning constitutional in the week, in a cafe on a Saturday or in bed/at the pub on a Sunday.
posted by biffa at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2010


Newspapers...the final act. Goodbye, drug war cheerleaders. Goodbye, ever bloody front page. Goodbye, simplistic political obfuscation. Goodbye, editorials written at a 6th grade level, with research to match. Goodbye, relentless cheerleading for Israel. Goodbye, pages of ads with thin little news "stories" bordered around them. Goodbye, waiting for a week for a classified notice to show up. Goodbye, steadfast refusal to print "letters to the editor" except for those which make even the newspaper look intelligent. Goodbye, half-wit columnists. Goodbye, huge need for dead trees. Goodbye, stinking pulp paper mills. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!
posted by telstar at 12:50 PM on March 27, 2010 [20 favorites]


Postroad, I doubt the BBC is going away any time soon - despite recent and imminent cuts in budgets. I think this is interesting on a lot of levels, but one which jumped out at me is, if Murdoch's (online) empire disappears behind a paywall* what will happen to the other papers who decide to remain free online? They aren't all blogs or "crowd-sourced". This was brought up in the link hydatius provided above btw.

They must be excited to hear that their biggest (real world) rival is locking his content away from users, planning £2 for something anyone can get free elsewhere! Who knows. Maybe people will switch their real-life papers too, if they get exposed to non-Murdoch fare online.





*presuming it's got magic DRM nobody breaks for the hell of it
posted by blue funk at 1:01 PM on March 27, 2010




I read the Guardian anyway, and I don't think they are planning to erect a paywall anytime soon. FT and NYT might be worth it, but that's about it.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:15 PM on March 27, 2010


And print journalism pushes itself a little further down the slope toward the ultimate end of the oblivion of irrelevance; say not that it was killed, but rather, that it killed itself.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:18 PM on March 27, 2010


And print journalism pushes itself a little further down the slope toward the ultimate end of the oblivion of irrelevance; say not that it was killed, but rather, that it killed itself.

But did it kill itself? What is the solution for declining incomes in the face of online news delivery? What will news delivery look like in the future? That some newspapers will fail seems inevitable, with potentially negative societal impacts. Will there be a tail end where the lasty survivors remain economic, inevitably suggesting less diversity of opinion and perspective? Will guzzling barely informed blogs be a worthwhile subsitute?
posted by biffa at 1:26 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Newsday, the contemporary newspaper of record for Long Island, New York, did this last fall. Three months in, they'd collected . . . 35 online subscriptions.
posted by gum at 1:31 PM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm more aiming at the fact that print journalism seems to be dedicated to its own extinction. The Times eliminating its dominance as an online new source seems just as stupid and self-defeating to me as the paper where I went to high school converting from a news-focused format to a human-interest format (with soft, information-free stories everywhere except the sports page and one page of combined state/national/world news).
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:33 PM on March 27, 2010


What is the solution for declining incomes in the face of online news delivery Craigslist and eBay sucking up all the classifieds?

FTFY. But also, newspapers were already on the way down before people started getting free news and posting free ads on the web. Bad business decisions in the 80s and 90s left the industry extremely vulnerable to a big change in the structure of the market; on top of that, most papers simply had no one around that had any idea what to do with that change until it was too late.
posted by aaronetc at 1:34 PM on March 27, 2010


Newspapers...the final act. Goodbye, drug war cheerleaders. Goodbye, ever bloody front page. Goodbye, simplistic political obfuscation. Goodbye, editorials written at a 6th grade level, with research to match. Goodbye, relentless cheerleading for Israel. Goodbye, pages of ads with thin little news "stories" bordered around them. Goodbye, waiting for a week for a classified notice to show up. Goodbye, steadfast refusal to print "letters to the editor" except for those which make even the newspaper look intelligent. Goodbye, half-wit columnists. Goodbye, huge need for dead trees. Goodbye, stinking pulp paper mills. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!

You know, I almost wish you were correct, because it would at least mean an end to this utterly tiresome schoolyard jeer that gets posted 50 times in every thread about the changing media landscape. Yes, we get that you don't give a shit whether society can or can't figure out a way to pay people to do journalism. We get it. But at some point, if you want to make a substantive contribution to the discussion, you have to stop crowing about the end of the worst of professional journalism, and start considering how, as a society, we can maintain the function of the best of it. Or, if you think we shouldn't care about the best of it, to actually say why you think this won't be a devastating loss to the culture.

And I'm sorry your local newspaper never printed your letters to the editor. (But maybe it was because they were written like this?)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:35 PM on March 27, 2010 [25 favorites]


I don't understand why newspapers and journalism have to be the same thing.
posted by breath at 1:49 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Snark away, and point and laugh, but the day that newspapers and magazines die all of civil discourse, and public debate, will be impoverished. Do you really not care that the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the NYRB (just to mention the ones that I rely on) might one day just fall down the economic rabbit hole of the internet and disappear? My local paper, which used to do decent coverage of City Hall and local issues is already a shell of what it once was, regurgitating press releases and online gossip sites and "news" sourced from press releases. If we lose print media-- or if some way isn't found to keep online media even partly solvent-- we're going to be left with getting our news and analysis from Gawker. I see nothing to rejoice in, and nothing to feel superior to, when it comes to magazines going bankrupt by the score and the mass firing of journalists over the last few years. I think it's tragic.
posted by jokeefe at 2:10 PM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


And on posting-- um. Press releases bad!
posted by jokeefe at 2:12 PM on March 27, 2010


Of course the BBC is not going away. Who pays their tab?
posted by Postroad at 2:12 PM on March 27, 2010


I'm not happy about the slow death of print journalism, but neither am I going to pretend that the newspapers weren't the most immediate cause of their own downfall.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:14 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


A well informed and well read citizen is one who gets news and idea exchanges from....why the blogs? and they get their news from...why the TV and Radio and papers and magazine...boiled down, reinterpreted etc.

It is perhaps best to argue simply that it doesn't matter. You can do without the news or any other things you might get from papers and magazines and cable news (that costs too) and live with greater simplicity, caring and knowing only about the major league results, which you can get free from the tv or radio. Politics, obits, films reviews, book reviews, world politics, elections, culture, and so on...who needs that if you must pay to find out about it? Zen monks living in a retreat do not need such things and look inward...as we say in Disneyland: a whole new world.
posted by Postroad at 2:18 PM on March 27, 2010


Basically, telstar should find a decent newspaper. That's our problem, having decent newspapers.
posted by ersatz at 2:21 PM on March 27, 2010


Some years ago, I did pay for a NYT online subscription. Not because I was even remotely interested in Thomas Friedman's latest thoughts on the increasing flatness of the world or the urgency of invading Iraq (the op-ed columnists were supposedly why you just had to pay), but because it provided (limited) access to their archives.

I suppose if the Times put their entire archives online but restricted access to it, I might be willing to pay a small fee. I certainly wouldn't pay for a simple news update or pure opinionizing.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:27 PM on March 27, 2010


I'll try to be a bit less snarky and propose four principles which I wish we'd all mutually choose to adopt for the purposes of this debate:

1. No specific current working journalist or newspaper executive is automatically entitled to a continuation of their job. I think we can all agree on this. If you run your newspaper into the ground in search of fast profits, and it backfires, don't expect to keep your source of income.

2. When it comes to professional journalism as a social function, though, deserve ain't got nothing to do with it. If I believe that having people paid to devote their days to journalism is a vital social good, it's not a good counter-argument to point out that those in charge of this social good have misused it quite a bit recently (although we're really only talking about the last three decades, and mainly about America and Britain). A good counter-argument would explain why professional journalism is not a vital social good.

3. Professional journalism need not mean "newspapers", but vague references to possible future alternative modes of journalism aren't good enough. If you believe that professional journalism is a vital social good, then it isn't enough to get all hand-wavey about ways this good might be provided in the future.

4. The market should not be the ultimate determinant of whether a social good should be provided. (Even Ron Paul supporters enjoy using federally funded roads.) Perhaps a massive government bailout is the answer for professional journalism, or a tax on every American. I happen to believe both these are terrible ideas for a number of reasons, but the point here is about the terms of the debate: if we're debating whether journalism is a good that needs to be protected, it makes no sense to restric debate to the question of whether it can fend for itself on the free market.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:37 PM on March 27, 2010 [12 favorites]


and they get their news from...why the TV and Radio and papers and magazine...boiled down, reinterpreted etc.

Wrong. Not all blogs "get" their news from newspapers. Talking Points Memo links to some newspaper articles. It also investigates its own stories. TPM isn't the only example of this. TPM does a hell of a better job at investigative journalism than the Washington Post these days.

The net and information want to be free. But those who pay a price for what goes onto the net and into the news want to stay in business and make a living, the way that you expect to be paid for what you do for your organization.


Then why were they so gung-ho to make their websites free in the first place? A firewall was necessary after the Pandora's box had already been opened.
posted by blucevalo at 2:46 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Postroad I was referring this:
Say goodbye if you will, but you will be left with what blogs put up as "news," regurgitated from what they have read elsewhere.

The BBC has correspondents in just about every country around the world. As you pointed out, the reason they aren't going anywhere is because we pay for them already. They have no need to worry about competing with The Times - this is why they've had a lot of flak lately from people (especially Murdoch) who do rely on the market as opposed to a flat tax.

The BBC provides all of its online content at no cost (domestically at least). They provide more content than The Times too, often of better quality. (Their tech coverage can be overly simplistic but YMMV.) There are other reputable sources with free content too.

RM doesn't own all newspapers, all newspapers aren't online either. The end of free Times access, online, isn't the end of journalism or an enforced exile to the blogs. TBH I'm looking forward to see how this goes. At the very least other papers will be given some clues about the web, if they need/want any. This could be a bad thing, but I'm optimistic about it myself. And on preview also what gwtter said. Heh I'm sorry that looks awful. Gwtter.
posted by blue funk at 2:46 PM on March 27, 2010


Argh jinx!
posted by blue funk at 2:47 PM on March 27, 2010


Maybe they could market it as "Subscribe to the Times and lose two pounds every month"?
posted by Karmakaze at 2:53 PM on March 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


As much as I’ve seen hundreds of silly comments on Mefi applauding the death of print media, to this day NO ONE has explained to me the following: If “print is dead,” how come supposed ‘dinosaurs’ like the New York Times continue breaking news and changing the American conversation, while even the biggest blogs out there (like the Huffington Post) exist simply to circulate pre-broken stories alongside editorials and gossip clips?

Yes, many of the bad business decisions that have ensnared the industry for decades (and even worse writers) are going down with the ship. Ha ha, bon voyage, etc. We get it. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back for throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by tiger yang at 3:01 PM on March 27, 2010


Perhaps a massive government bailout is the answer for professional journalism, or a tax on every American. I happen to believe both these are terrible ideas for a number of reasons, but the point here is about the terms of the debate: if we're debating whether journalism is a good that needs to be protected, it makes no sense to restric debate to the question of whether it can fend for itself on the free market.

U.S. BBC?

I wonder whether we could pull it off here, what with the stark political divide and vicious partisanship (see the 0 votes from Repubs on HC). Look at how much shit public broadcasting gets from conservatives for the few bucks PBS gets from the taxpayer. Good luck trying to do real journalism - it'll devolve into bland "offend no one" reporting "all sides with no comment", and a lot of animal/cooking/travel/antiques shows... it's almost there with PBS already.
posted by VikingSword at 3:02 PM on March 27, 2010


Yes, we get that you don't give a shit whether society can or can't figure out a way to pay people to do journalism. We get it. But at some point, if you want to make a substantive contribution to the discussion, you have to stop crowing about the end of the worst of professional journalism, and start considering how, as a society, we can maintain the function of the best of it.

Well, that depends on what you mean by "society", and which "society" you are talking about. Plenty of societies have figured out that journalism is a public resource like health care and education and should be government-funded.

Private production of newsmedia has always been a failing market: the most popular papers and channels often collapsed because they were popular with groups that didn't respond well to advertising.

With the death of private journalism in general, US liberals and leftists should be campaigning for a massive expansion of PBS or the creation of a new, bigger PBS-like body. The government should fund an independent TV channel, a 24-hour news channel, and a daily news website, all free of advertising.
posted by stammer at 3:11 PM on March 27, 2010


On preview...
posted by stammer at 3:11 PM on March 27, 2010


With the death of private journalism in general, US liberals and leftists should be campaigning for a massive expansion of PBS or the creation of a new, bigger PBS-like body.

The death of Fox News combined with the expansion of a government backed media entity.

Are you trying to cause an insurrection here?
posted by Talez at 3:27 PM on March 27, 2010


I think it's great that Murdoch has the balls to do this with major titles like The Times and the Sunday Times. Let's see what happens - seriously. He may do well out of it.

In unrelated news, the papers collectively lost £90m in the year ending June 2009. He has to do something.

I know the Guardian always bang on about 'free', but they currently lost £80k per day.

So as I say I'm glad that Murdoch has the balls to try something this bold.
posted by DanCall at 3:28 PM on March 27, 2010


Sorry - the Guardian loses £100k a day, according to that Independent link posted earlier
posted by DanCall at 3:33 PM on March 27, 2010


BTW thanks whichever mod who correct the bad link.
posted by blue funk at 3:33 PM on March 27, 2010


Does anybody here actually have a subscription to a paper? I used to take the Independent in the week, the Sunday Times on, unsurprisingly, Sundays. That must be, 15yrs ago now. The Independent went downhill (later had a resurgence but had lost me by then), but I carried on with the ST for another few years. Eventually it was simply redundant. "News" was days out of date, the opinions they fell back on in lieu of news were ones I could get legally elsewhere, for free.

In that time, literally everyone I know who used to have newspaper subscriptions, have stopped. Yet not all of them have or use the web, for news or anything else (maybe email, the odd google, some not even that).

The younger generation doesn't seem to ever have gotten into the habit of printed newspapers, generally.

I don't know what I'm trying to say with this, except I don't think news piracy is a widespread problem, and that news "consumption" seems to have declined even outside the direct shadow cast by the web. There must be something else going on as well as Google's aggregating online news.

(on preview: "BTW thanks whichever mod who correct the bad link.
posted by blue funk at 10:33 PM"
? Ug! Gonna retire for the night I'm going all Altered States.)
posted by blue funk at 3:48 PM on March 27, 2010


3. Professional journalism need not mean "newspapers", but vague references to possible future alternative modes of journalism aren't good enough. If you believe that professional journalism is a vital social good, then it isn't enough to get all hand-wavey about ways this good might be provided in the future.

If the social good of professional journalism was vaguely correlated to the news business this discussion would go very differently. I used to buy the chicago tribune, but it's just determined to have professional journalism and social good be a minor part of the newspaper. I don't read it online for free; I canceled when it cost me $0.50 a week, so I'm pretty sure that the culprit isn't the Internet.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:56 PM on March 27, 2010


If I ran a news website I would try this: Give privileged access to the earliest portion of viewers of each article, and also to bloggers with lots of followers, so that a critical mass of people get to see it and link it around. Then put a paywall in front of the article. Pay or otherwise persuade Google not to index the material in any other source. Go aggressively against sites that post extensive or full copy-pastes.

Article gets linked and discussed but most who see the discussion will not see the article without inconvenience, unless they've paid.
posted by Anything at 4:17 PM on March 27, 2010


In the above, the paywall could come down for most viewers very soon, perhaps under an hour after publication.
posted by Anything at 4:19 PM on March 27, 2010


I'll try to be a bit less snarky and propose four principles which I wish we'd all mutually choose to adopt for the purposes of this debate:
I agree totally, but the problem is there are so few good solutions here, and it just leaves a vacuum for the JAYSON BLAIR AND WHAT ABOUT IRAQ H?UH types. The problems facing news really are intractable -- there's no evident solution, not even a really shitty one like the "they should make their money from gigs and T-shirts sales" trope that haunts the discussions of the music industry collapsing.

Our society's better because of journalism. The newspapers were the money machines that made so much of it they could afford to do journalism properly. They're inevitably going away. So what do we do? State-sponsored journalism only goes so far, and definitely tilts the board against market solutions.

Seriously, people who think we'll be all right when the papers go because the BBC is here to pick up the slack are going to be horrified when they realise a) how much the BBC relies on print journalism to break stories and b) how lacklustre its regional offerings are.
posted by bonaldi at 4:22 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


.. or perhaps only after the first major influx of readers, in case if, for any reason, it gets significant attention only after a longer time has passed.
posted by Anything at 4:25 PM on March 27, 2010


I'm not happy about the slow death of print journalism, but neither am I going to pretend that the newspapers weren't the most immediate cause of their own downfall.

The cause of the death of print journalism is that the internet breaks their business model. Consumers aren't willing to pay for digital copies of newspapers they would pay for on paper, so the papers lose subscriber revenue. Their classified sections can't compete with Craigslist giving away listings for free. They don't realize the same advertising revenue from online readers as they do from paper.

Now, every response they've attempted to make to this has been at best a failure and at worst actively counterproductive, but the basic situation of their revenue falling off of a cliff is not of their own creation. The worst you can fault them for (from a business perspective, at least) is not having come up with a business model that works in this new world, but it's not even clear that one is possible that lets you do lots of labor-intensive shoe leather journalism.

Now, the decline we've lately seen in the quality of journalism is indeed related to the decline in profitability, as much of it is a direct result of attempts to claw their way back to profitability by cutting fixed costs through such measures as layoffs, buyouts, and closures of foreign desks, and through ownership consolidations that attempt to turn as many cost centers as possible into shared services and achieve economies of scale. It's unclear whether the free market can even support good journalism anymore, to whatever extent it ever did.

Even when (taking thus US as an example, though I'd be interested to know how much this applies as well to the British papers we've been discussing) one looks back to the glory days of the Pentagon Papers and Woodward & Bernstein breaking Watergate, I'm not sure that the Times and Post were ever really intended to be profitable undertakings nearly as much as they were vehicles for a few wealthy families like the Sulzbergers and Grahams to accrue prestige and advance their other interests; almost like a Rennaissance prince acting as the patron of a painter or poet. Though I think back then the papers did make money, or at least avoided hemorrhaging red ink like a severed carotid.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:36 PM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Back then being the 60s and 70s, not the Rennaissance)
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:37 PM on March 27, 2010


Does anybody here actually have a subscription to a paper?

Wouldn't do me any good, I'm on my way to work by the time they deliver it. How many people would have time to read a morning paper before leaving for work these days, if they're driving? I prefer reading it online most of the time, anyway - not so much of a mess to keep around until I feel like carting it to the recycling bin. There's some emotional response to having the actual big paper all spread out but not enough to make up for the rest.
posted by dilettante at 6:18 PM on March 27, 2010


Does anybody here actually have a subscription to a paper?

*Raises hand*

I've subscribed to my local paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for twenty years and keep doing it mostly from momentum more than anything else. When I started getting it back in the late eighties, it was about twice the size per issue that it is now and had a lot more utility for me than it does now. That was when classified ads, sales ads, sports scores, national new, etc was a lot more useful than it is now. Now, I pretty much only read the local news, the local columnists and the sports columnists.
posted by octothorpe at 6:34 PM on March 27, 2010


With the death of private journalism in general, US liberals and leftists should be campaigning for a massive expansion of PBS or the creation of a new, bigger PBS-like body.

Ah, good point--I never really thought about it like that. Even though I am a conservative and cannot stand the pervasive liberal bias in the media, it still pains me to see the newspaper industry go down. While I will not miss a lot of the excrement that comes out of the New York Times, there is a lot of great reporting that comes out of the newspaper that far outweighs the bad.

This is a big deal--unless something changes, this current trend is very bad for the left in this regard. Survival is the name of the game right now--all Murdoch has to do is make sure he's the last one standing when the music stops. Technology and the market will eventually find a way to make it work. In fact, Apple may have already done so with the iPad. The thing about Jobs is that he will make sure people pay for the content they get on their iPad. Jobs is pure genius--he figured out a long time ago that entitlement is just another form of greed. Everyone will get all gratified with the awesomeness of their flashy $600 iPad, and you've adequately satisfied their greed--next thing you know, no one even realizes they are paying $20 a month for something they used to get for free.
posted by stevenstevo at 9:04 PM on March 27, 2010


pervasive liberal bias in the media

Can you give me a cite for this? Most media seems to me to be extremely biased towards the right in the US.
posted by maxwelton at 10:35 PM on March 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


I have been paying a subscription to Salon for several years. I just this week didn't renew -- Keith Knight going was the last straw on top of their horrible redesign. I may yet change my mind. Anyway...

back then the papers did make money, or at least avoided hemorrhaging red ink like a severed carotid.

They did. That is why in the 1970s Buffett took a large position in the Washington Post (and other US papers too IIRC). It wasn't for charity, it was because at the time local papers' revenue stream from classifieds was a natural near-monopoly.

Papers didn't have to lose that monopoly -- they could have put their classifieds online a decade ago and enjoyed the twin benefits of being first and network effects. But I am not aware of a single daily paper in the Western world that did that. Of course to do that would have meant splitting the ads into a separate line of business, and once that was done, why would you bother with the journalism part?

I think the Guardian etc will have the last laugh. It is not-for-profit foundations that can continue to fund in-depth journalism, long after the capitalists have given up.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:55 PM on March 27, 2010


That Clay Shirky article someone linked to is great:
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.
posted by memebake at 2:48 AM on March 28, 2010 [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.

One might just as easily respond that "You haven't got a business model!" has never been a good argument for abandoning all hope of promoting any given social good in society.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:42 AM on March 28, 2010


Newspapers have no business model! Shift everything to twitter!
posted by Artw at 8:40 AM on March 28, 2010


I still wonder if modern society's structure might make it easier for an afternoon or evening paper to survive, rather than a morning edition.
posted by dilettante at 11:32 AM on March 28, 2010


I just wanted to pop in to say thanks for this:

"Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work."
posted by victors


That was one of the best, well-written articles I've read all week. I've favourited your comment, bookmarked the article and given it a thumbs-up on Stumble. Needless to say, I'll be referring people I know to that when they want an incisive breakdown of where we are (and have been since, like, 2000) wrt "new media" etc. I especially liked the description of what a technological revolution is and the historical perspective (the printing press etc.). Cheers!
posted by blue funk at 2:02 PM on March 28, 2010


I think that little sidebar about whether the US media has a conservative or liberal bias nicely illustrates VikingSword's point about why we can't have nice things a BBC in the US. Given that the ideologically engaged portion of the citizenry is divided into two warring camps, who are both convinced that the media is biased against them, how could you ever get consensus about spending people's tax dollars on robust news reporting when at least half of the audience, and more likely the entirety, would be convinced that it was a taxpayer-funded source of enemy propaganda?

It's nice for you Brits that you manage to pull it off, though.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 3:04 PM on March 28, 2010


I'm not sure that the Times and Post were ever really intended to be profitable undertakings nearly as much as they were vehicles for a few wealthy families like the Sulzbergers and Grahams to accrue prestige and advance their other interests;

I don't know the history of the Post, but the Ochs family (of which the Sulzbergers are descendents) bought the money-losing NYTs in the first decade of the 1900's for its money earning potential and made it profitable.
posted by Jahaza at 4:46 PM on March 28, 2010


Grr... last decade of the 1800's... where'd that edit window go?
posted by Jahaza at 4:46 PM on March 28, 2010


Given that the ideologically engaged portion of the citizenry is divided into two warring camps, who are both convinced that the media is biased against them, how could you ever get consensus about spending people's tax dollars on robust news reporting when at least half of the audience, and more likely the entirety, would be convinced that it was a taxpayer-funded source of enemy propaganda?

It's nice for you Brits that you manage to pull it off, though.
posted by strangely stunted trees



I've been thinking lately (again) about how different in tone US and UK political discourse is. General discourse in the media, press releases/official statements from politicians, etc. etc. more than the wo/man on the street. I think it's easy to come across as smug to Americans when you comment how shocking that tone often is over there - but here's the thing. Over here, the "official" political discourse is mealy-mouthed and jargon-filled. It seems almost designed to be content-free and tranquilising. The wo/man on the street generally complains and mouths a few one-liners cribbed from tabloid headlines but that's generally it. No further thought or debate or exploration of any alternatives.

Depending on the figures you use, ~30-40% of people here don't vote. A constant irritating refrain I've heard since my teens is "Politics is boring" which drives me nuts. I'd hate for it to be entertaining! Most important things in life are difficult and even "boring".

So I could say the reason we manage to pull it off is, we don't care enough. And the reason you can't, is that you care too much. ("Care"/"get riled"/"mobilised", choose as appropriate.)
posted by blue funk at 4:55 PM on March 28, 2010


(In other words, totally not smug.)
posted by blue funk at 4:57 PM on March 28, 2010


Newspapers are dead .... good or bad.... bias or discourse. Surely all depends on your point of view and/or your need to control what is said.

Discourse won't die. The internet has accelerated real discourse way beyond 'letters to the editor'. Was the content valuable ? Charlie Brooker offers an interesting view
posted by Boslowski at 5:33 AM on March 29, 2010


Here's the problem with newspapers, at least smallish hometown papers: people can read AP articles online. Why fill up dead-tree papers with AP articles? I quit subscribing to my local daily because it was just regurgitated info I'd already read. I am, however, considering subscribing to my weekly hometown paper because it has what I am interested in reading: local news and local ads. I think that you'll see weeklies continuing, but these dailies may just die out, if they can't find a local angle.
posted by cass at 8:36 AM on March 29, 2010


I suppose if the Times put their entire archives online but restricted access to it, I might be willing to pay a small fee. I certainly wouldn't pay for a simple news update or pure opinionizing.

The Times Archive is a searchable database of 200 years of The Times newspaper, from its launch in 1785 until 1985 [...] Over the next months, we’ll be adding The Times post-1985, as well as The Sunday Times from its launch in 1822. But at £14.95 a month, is it too expensive?
posted by Mike1024 at 4:02 PM on March 29, 2010


The Times Archive is a searchable database of 200 years of The Times newspaper, from its launch in 1785 until 1985 [...] Over the next months, we’ll be adding The Times post-1985, as well as The Sunday Times from its launch in 1822. But at £14.95 a month, is it too expensive?
posted by Mike1024


I got a bit excited then - bit too short of money at the moment but if it were cheaper I'd definitely consider subscribing to that. I love reading old newspapers. I've even moved somewhere new, moved some loose carpet and found yellowing newspaper from say, the '70s, and ended up sitting there for ages reading through it. Let alone from 200yrs ago!

But yeah. £14.95 p.m. is a bit ridiculous.
posted by blue funk at 8:01 PM on March 29, 2010


bit too short of money at the moment but if it were cheaper I'd definitely consider subscribing to that.

A lot of university libraries have access, because it's cheaper, more searchable, and more space-efficient than keeping a bunch of microfilm and microfilm-reading-and-copying machines.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:33 AM on March 30, 2010


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