Friday 6 February 2009

Paid for newspaper content: the backlash

Blogger Mark Potts is fed-up with "printies" chasing "phantom" solutions to the newspaper industry's problems.
He claims: "The latest wrinkle is the hoary 'Let's force people to pay for newspapers online' suggestion, now raised by former Time magazine editor Walter Isaacson."
Potts turns to another blogger to challenge Isaacson:"On his excellent Hitsville popular culture blog, former newspaperman Bill Wyman does a nice job of demolishing Isaacson's argument. Among other things, Wyman points out that the fundamental tenet of the argument is false: newspapers never made money off of subscriptions (or street sales) in the first place, and thus have always been advertising-based."
Potts says: "Wyman also gets to the bigger-picture heart of the matter," and quotes him: "The more I think about it, the biggest problem the press has is that the evaporation of advertising has meant that the news it publishes has to stand on its own two feet.
"Sure, back in the day there was some foreign news, some local reporting, some great reporters and editors sprinkled across the country.
"But let’s face it, most newspapers sucked in all sorts of ways, and one of the main ways was opting toward blandness and timidity wherever possible, so as not to offend the older folks subscribing to the papers."
Potts says: "There may be some opportunities for some newspapers (and other news organizations) to create niche-based, premium products that certain targeted audiences will pay for. But the idea that forcing readers to pay for general online newspaper content will somehow magically solve the industry's problems–never mind the horrific effect subscription plans would have on traffic-based ad revenue–is just folly. Enough already."
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