Wednesday, February 4, 2009

non-profit journalism: the other side

The debate continues in Romenesko's column today. Slate's Jack Shafer votes no. From yesterday's piece:
"The plans to "save" the [New York] Times and [Washington]Post by rescuing their newsrooms from commercial pressure by sticking them inside protective domes strike me as conservative and futile. The market for news—and for ads—is trying to tell them it wants them to transmogrify into something new or, in the worst-case scenario, something gone. Turning any newspaper over to rich historic preservationists only postpones solving the problem of what newspapers need to be in the 21st century."

L.A. Times columnist Tim Ruttan also votes no on what he calls a "government funded National Public Newspaper." Along with other media-watchers, he agrees that newspapers have destroyed themselves by giving the news away for free online. As remedy, he calls for an antitrust exemption so that news organizations can agree on a price to charge for online content. From his piece, which ran today:

"Two major newspapers -- the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times -- charge readers tiered fees to view their online journalism. The rest of the industry has decided there's more money to be made in charging advertisers for the larger audiences that free content attracts than in selling online subscriptions.

"That's wrong, in my view, but it's hard to argue with as long as some major newspapers are giving their online journalism away; until they stop, nobody can risk charging for theirs. That's where the antitrust exemption would come in: It would allow all U.S. newspaper companies -- and others in the English-speaking world, as well as popular broadcast-based sites such as -- to sit down and negotiate an agreement on how to scale prices and, then, to begin imposing them simultaneously.

"That, in turn, would set the stage for tackling the other leg of this problem -- how to extract reasonable fees from aggregators like Google and Yahoo, which currently use their search engines to link to news that newspapers and broadcasters pay to gather. As veteran journalist and book publisher Peter Osnos said this week, newspapers and magazines 'have to start demanding payment for use of their material or they will disappear.'"
Not sure I completely agree in either case, but clearly, the plot is thickening. Too little, too late? You have to wonder why we let the advances in technology outpace our ability to think about them. Too dazzled by the wow factors to think about business? bk


geewhy said...

I think Ruttan's got it half right. Go after Google, not the actual news consumers. There's an entire generation of people who expect news to be free. I think trying to charge readers now, outside of financial publications, would be pointless.

More and more people are reading news now. Google is making lots of money off that. News organizations should follow the money.

barbara kelley said...

i agree. bk